BERLIN (Reuters) -- Volkswagen Group will launch a recall for cars in Europe with software that skirts diesel emissions tests starting in January and will complete the fix by the end of next year, CEO Matthias Mueller said in an interview with a German newspaper.
"If all goes according to plan, we can start the recall in January," Mueller told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "All the cars should be fixed by the end of 2016."
For the U.S. market, the remedy will first have to be agreed upon with Environmental Protection Agency, a VW spokeswoman said but she offered no timing for that.
As many as 11 million diesel-powered VW Group autos worldwide have emissions-control systems carrying software designed to fool pollution testers, including 8 million in the European Union and 482,000 in the U.S., where regulators first detected the cheating.
Most cars probably only need software reprogramming that can be done at a local service outlet, though some will need new injector systems or some rebuilding at special workshops to install larger catalytic converters, Mueller said. Replacing cars will be considered in “particular cases,” he said.
The Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. Congress will hold a hearing on Thursday to seek details on how and why Volkswagen arranged the scheme.
Mueller told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that, while he's ready to travel to the U.S., his "hands are full" at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters. "We're facing not just three solutions but thousands" because of each vehicle's mix of technology as well as national regulatory differences, Mueller told the newspaper.
Four employees, including three top managers, have been suspended so far, while some other people involved have retired, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cited the CEO as saying. At this point, only personnel in Wolfsburg are implicated and no one in the U.S., he said.
Volkswagen plans to continue selling diesel technology in the U.S. even after the scandal came to light, as "it's a good powering system," Mueller told the newspaper.
Bugatti in firing line
He said VW would have to become smaller and less centralized, adding that every model and brand would be scrutinized for its contribution to the company and singling out Bugatti.
But he said an "evolution" rather than a "revolution" was needed to get VW back on track, predicting that the company could "shine again" in two to three years. "This crisis gives us an opportunity to overhaul Volkswagen's structures," Mueller said. "We want to make the company slimmer, more decentralized and give the brands more responsibility.
Mueller also rejected the suggestion that VW had informed financial markets too late about the diesel problems despite having told officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weeks before it went public.
VW apologized for the emissions scandal in a letter to U.S. customers obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, but the company said a remedy would take time. "I am writing you today to offer a personal and profound apology. Volkswagen has violated your trust," read the letter written by the head of the German company's U.S. arm, Michael Horn, and dated Sept. 29.
Horn said the company was working hard on remedies to bring cars into emissions compliance as soon as possible but "getting this right will take some time."
Bloomberg and Automotive News Europe contributed to this report