FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen Group's supervisory board stood by CEO Matthias Mueller even after he sparked a media firestorm in the U.S. last week that complicated efforts to clear up the company's diesel-emissions scandal.
Mueller's role was never under discussion and any speculation to the contrary will be "emphatically rejected," a VW spokesman said on Tuesday, following a meeting between the CEO and automaker's supervisory board leaders.
At the gathering, Mueller confirmed that he believes the company breached legal codes and overstepped ethical boundaries when it cheated on diesel emissions.
Mueller's position is not in danger, Joerg Hofmann, who is deputy chairman of the six-man supervisory board committee, said after the meeting."We are very conscious that there is no alternative. The question does not arise," he said.
"The impression [Mueller] gives is that he is working in a very serious and results-oriented way on the problems. People like to speculate but there is neither cause nor reason to express doubt on this issue," Hoffman said. He was speaking on Wednesday at a news conference of the IG Metall trade union, of which he is president.
VW told Reuters that the investigation into the emissions scandal led by U.S. law firm Jones Day had made "considerable further progress" in past weeks and VW should be able to provide a "substantial report" on the matter at the April 21 annual shareholder meeting
Mueller drew criticism after telling a National Public Radio interviewer that Volkswagen "didn’t lie" when first asked about irregularities between real-life and test emissions in its diesel cars.
In a follow-up interview, Mueller apologized and blamed his initial statements on noisy surroundings. The comments came before Mueller’s first meeting with U.S. regulators in the four-month-old crisis.
Germany's Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper had reported that doubts were growing among board members, most notably VW's powerful labor representatives, over Mueller, who took the helm at Volkswagen last September
Volkswagen has been struggling to find a path out of the scandal in the U.S., where so far it’s failed to get regulatory approval for a fix for diesel cars it rigged to pass emissions tests. The company admitted last September that it had deceived consumers and regulators since 2009 in a scandal involving 11 million vehicles worldwide. A recall in Europe has since started.
Volkswagen is still looking into how the deception was originated and maintained for so many years. The company said Tuesday that an investigation being run by U.S. law firm Jones Day has made significant strides in recent weeks, and a report is planned for the carmaker’s shareholder meeting in April.
Amid the uncertainty, some buyers have been deterred from Volkswagen’s vehicles. Its global sales last year declined 2 percent to 9.93 million vehicles. The manufacturer has said 2016 will be no less challenging. Halting sales of cars with diesel engines in the U.S. triggered a slump in VW-brand deliveries in North America.
To help lead a recovery, the automaker appointed Hinrich Woebcken, a former BMW executive, as the chief of the North America region effective April 1. Woebcken will oversee Michael Horn, who heads Volkswagen’s U.S. unit. The previous designated chief, Winfried Vahland, turned down the job last year in the wake of a management revamp triggered by the emissions scandal.
Reuters contributed to this report