The company has been accused of falsifying emissions tests by using software that ensures compliance with emissions limits under test conditions but not in actual driving. During the Finnish Prime Minister’s visit to Berlin on 22 September Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "As for Volkswagen, given the current difficult situation it is essential to ensure absolute transparency and a full and complete investigation of the entire matter."
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel also said that he expected the company to ensure a swift and rigorously thorough investigation. "I think there can be no doubt that this is a very serious incident."
The Chancellor said, she hoped that all the facts would be disclosed as rapidly as possible. It is, she said, right and proper that Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt is engaging in the necessary discussions with the Federal Motor Transport Authority. This is the only way to achieve transparency, she added, and said that she believes all necessary steps have been taken at this time.
In an interview, Alexander Dobrindt stressed that independent controls are conducted regularly. In this specific case, however, he had already instructed the Federal Motor Transport Authority to "have strict, specific tests of Volkswagen’s diesel cars conducted immediately by independent appraisers". He has also received assurances from Volkswagen "that all new vehicles will be free of the influence of any unlawful software or any other modifications". Volkswagen will now have to regain the trust of consumers – by ensuring a complete investigation, guaranteeing transparency, and signalling how it intends to make good any damage caused.
At the government press conference on 23 September a spokesperson also stated that an investigatory commission headed by State Secretary Michael Odenwald had already left Berlin for Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg to conduct talks and request access to documents.
Volkswagen has been accused by the US Environmental Protection Agency of using a special software in its diesel cars that ensured compliance with legal emissions levels during tests but not during actual driving. These vehicles then emitted more nitrogen oxide than permitted under normal traffic conditions. Almost half a million vehicles are said to be affected in the USA. The company could face penalties amounting to billions of dollars.