Volkswagen says staff started work on emissions cheat in 2005

Volkswagen Group staff began working on a mechanism to cheat United States emissions rules a decade ago, executives said.

Hans Dieter Poetsch, Volkswagen’s chairman, said its investigations found that the cheat started as the company was planning to push its diesel cars into the North American market, according to The Associated Press.

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Engineers could not meet strict U.S. nitrogen oxide standards in their given “timeframe and budget,” so they built software that better controlled emissions only during Environmental Protection Agency tests.

But the defeat software stayed in vehicles even when the proper emissions technology was developed.

“We are not talking about a one-off mistake, but a whole chain of mistakes that was not interrupted at any point along the timeline,” Poetsch told reporters Thursday at the company’s German headquarters, according to the AP.

The findings are some of the most detailed that Volkswagen has given publicly since the EPA first revealed that nearly 500,000 Volkswagen cars sold in the United States had the software to cover up pollution violations.

The software is in 11 million cars sold globally between 2009 and 2015.

Poetsch said Volkswagen has suspended nine engineers involved in the scandal and it is still “relentlessly searching for those responsible,” including executives.

“We still do not know whether the people who were involved in this issue from 2005 to the present day were fully aware of the risks they were taking and of the potential damage they could expose the company to, but that's another issue we will find out,” he said.

Matthias Mueller, Volkswagen’s chief executive, said the investigation has so far found that the engineers kept knowledge of the problem closely held within a small group of employees.