BERLIN, March 8 Chancellor Angela Merkel on
Wednesday told a German parliamentary committee of inquiry that
she first learned of the diesel emissions scandal at Volkswagen
through the media.
Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to installing secret
software in hundreds of thousands of U.S. diesel cars to cheat
exhaust emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they
were on the road, and that as many as 11 million vehicles could
have similar software installed worldwide.
"I only found out through media reports," Merkel said on
Wednesday as the last witness to the committee of inquiry in the
Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Merkel said she had found out about the accusations against
Volkswagen on Sept. 19, 2015, and on Sept. 21 was then informed
by Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt.
She said she had later spoken by telephone to then Chief
Executive Martin Winterkorn, "probably on 22 September".
Asked what she found out from Winterkorn, she answered:
"Nothing that I didn't already know based on the information
from the transport minister and the media."
German opposition parties wanted the parliamentary
committee, set up in July 2016, to investigate the government's
response to the scandal because they said Berlin had been too
lax in its treatment of the car industry.
Merkel said she felt she had been well informed by Dobrindt
and added that he had not only quickly set up an investigation
committee in the transport ministry but also called for all the
information to be put on the table, which she said had her full
Merkel said she did not undertake any detailed interventions
into the issue.
She said she did not have the impression that the German
authorities responsible had made mistakes or been negligent
during the course of the scandal.
Merkel said she did not know why the scandal had not been
discovered in Germany: "I don't have any explanation for that."
Merkel said that for her, reducing CO2 emissions from cars
was in the foreground in the years prior to the scandal compared
with emissions of nitrogen oxide, which was problematic with
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin;
Editing by Alison Williams)