Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn on Tuesday offered his "deepest apologies" for the pollution-cheating scandal engulfing the auto giant and threatening to tarnish Germany's industrial reputation.
"I am infinitely sorry that we have disappointed people's trust. I offer my deepest apologies to our customers, the authorities and to the public at large for our misconduct," the 68-year-old executive said in a video statement after VW admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide had been fitted with devices that could skew emissions data.
The "irregularities... contradict everything that our company stands for," Winterkorn said.
The carmaker would be "ruthless" in its investigation of the matter and would act "quickly, thoroughly and transparently," he promised.
"(Our) top priority is a rapid and comprehensive investigation. We owe that to our customers, our employees and the general public."
Winterkorn insisted that "manipulation must never again occur at Volkswagen. Millions of people all over the world trust our brands, our cars and our technologies."
VW, previously seen as paragon of German engineering, has become engulfed in one of the biggest scandals seen in the automobile sector in decades.
The company, one of the heavyweights of the German blue-chip DAX index, has seen its market capitalisation slashed by nearly a third in two days and said the costs of the scandal will cause it to miss its profit targets for this year.