German Chancellor Angela Merkel has appeared before a parliamentary committee of inquiry investigating the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal.
The inquiry was established to investigate whether German authorities were aware of VW’s emissions cheating before the United States. Angela Merkel is the last witness to testify. German opposition parties wanted the inquiry to investigate the government’s response to the scandal, which they felt had been too lax.
Merkel told the committee she first learned of the diesel emissions scandal through the media. “I only found out through media reports,” she said.
Merkel said she found out about the accusations against Volkswagen on September 19 2015, and was informed by the transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, on September 21. Her first contact with former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn regarding the issue came via a telephone call “probably on the 22 September,” according to Reuters.
The long-standing relationship between Merkel and Winterkorn has been a point of interest throughout the emissions scandal.
When asked what she found out from the VW chief, Merkel said, “nothing that I didn’t already know based on the information from the transport minister and the media.” She said it was unfortunate that VW had misled U.S. authorities.
Merkel said she felt Dobrint had kept her well informed on the issue and quickly set up an investigation committee, and she had no impression that German authorities responsible had been negligent or incompetent during the scandal.
The emissions scandal broke on September 18, 2015, after U.S authorities ordered a recall of VW diesel vehicles. Merkel said she did not know why the emissions cheating had not been discovered in Germany. “I don’t have any explanation for that,” she told the committee.
A long-time defender of diesel vehicles, Merkel argued against excessive regulation of the industry, which employs 800,000 people in Germany. “We should have regulation that is ambitious, but not to such an extent that cars can no longer be produced,” she said.
The inquiry has yet to uncover clear evidence of improper misconduct by Angela Merkel or the German government.