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"If all goes according to plan, we can start the recall in January. All the cars should be fixed by the end of 2016," Mueller told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). The newspaper provided a copy of the interview prior to publication on Wednesday.
Mueller told the FAZ that he believed only a few employees were involved in the diesel emissions rigging that has hammered the company's stock and done severe damage to its reputation, refuting the notion that his detail-oriented predecessor Martin Winterkorn must have known about it.
He said the 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 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.
"Based on our understanding of the law, we informed in time," he said.
(Writing by Noah Barkin)