'We didn't lie' misstep summed up VW's bad week in Detroit

Volkswagen could have used the Detroit Auto Show to rebuild its image, but setbacks, including a controversial interview from VW Group CEO Matthias Müller, further damaged the company in the wake of its diesel emissions scandal. When speaking to National Public Radio, Müller initially asserted VW "didn't lie" to federal investigators – but then requested a second discussion to explain what he meant.

"Frankly spoken, it was a technical problem. We made a default. We had not the right interpretation of the American law." Müller told NPR in the first interview. The journalist then asked the CEO why the company lied to the Environmental Protection Agency. "We didn't lie. We didn't understand the question first. And then we worked since 2014 to solve the problem," he said.

The CEO still didn't directly say the automaker lied when explaining the situation in the second interview. "One reason could be a misunderstanding. One reason - another reason could be that people and employees did their work not in the right way," Müller said.

The negative reaction to the interview came during an already rough week for VW. For example, the California Air Resources Board and EPA rejected the company's recall plan for the 2.0-liter diesel engines because the proposal lacked enough detail. The US state attorneys general leading an investigation into the automaker also alleged VW resisted their work by hiding behind German privacy laws to keep from handing over emails.

VW hasn't officially outlined its US recall plan yet, but the latest reports indicated that it could include a new catalytic converter and software updates for some vehicles with the 2.0- and 3.0-liter engines. The automaker might also offer to buy back some models with the 2.0 TDI instead of fixing them.

You can listen to the NPR interview below:

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