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VW US CEO: 'This company has to bloody learn'

Volkswagen America CEO Michael Horn apologized Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill and said the automaker is "determined to make things right" after years of deception on an air pollution device.

Horn made his comments at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., called Volkswagen's emissions cheating a "fundamental violation of public trust."

"We have to streamline our processes, and this company has to bloody learn and use this opportunity in order to get their act together," Horn said.

He said that he had no knowledge of the faulty software prior to his meeting with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board on Sept. 3, 2015.

"To the best of my knowledge today, this was not a corporate decision," he said. "This was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reasons and I would also like to find out."

Horn, a German who has worked at VW for 25 years, said he did not think something like that would be possible at his company. "These events are deeply troubling," he said.

Representatives were most concerned about the nearly half a million affected cars sold in the U.S. Horn explained that for about 430,000 of those vehicles, a software-only fix would be technically unworkable; a hardware fix would also be needed.

Horn apologized for not having specific dates on when technical remedies could be expected as investigations are still ongoing, but he said new software could be available early next year. He added that the full remedy could take years.

In mid-September, the EPA alleged that the German automaker had been cheating on American air pollution tests. Volkswagen acknowledged that it installed sophisticated software known as "defeat devices" in the electronic control module of diesel vehicles issued between 2009 and 2015.

U.S. dealers, whose business is approximately 25 percent diesel cars, will receive some financial support and incentives from VW, Horn said.

Volkswagen North America CEO Michael Horn prior to testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington October 8, 2015.
Gary Cameron | Reuters
Volkswagen North America CEO Michael Horn prior to testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington October 8, 2015.

Horn outlined a series of actions the company was planning, including conducting global investigations and communicating openly.

He said the company's losses will depend of the amount of fines, recall fixes and customer compensation. "This is a whole lot of money, I'm quite sure," he said.

He said the company would examine compliance and standards.The company has set up a service line and website for the public to access. Horn also said that he had sent a letter to every affected customer.

"We will fully cooperate with all responsible authorities. We will find remedies for our customers, and we will work to ensure that this will never happen again," he said.

The company admitted to the faulty software and subsequently issued several apologies. About 11 million cars worldwide are affected.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the day of Horn's appearance on Capitol Hill.

— CNBC's Kalyeena Makortoff and the AP contributed to this report.