GENEVA—The chief of scandal-hit carmaker Volkswagen, Matthias Mueller, on Monday called for the German giant to "learn from past mistakes," as it seeks to recover from the devastating impact of revelations that it was cheating on emissions tests.

"2016 is the year when we intend to solve the problem with our diesel engines for our customers, and when we realign the group for the future," Mueller said in a speech in Geneva quoted in a Volkswagen statement.

"We are tackling this twofold task with the necessary respect, but also in the firm conviction that the group and its brands can and will emerge from this difficult phase even stronger."

A major international scandal broke last year after it emerged that millions of Volkswagen vehicles had been fitted with an emissions test "defeat" device, or cheating software.

Former Porsche leader Mueller took the reins of the embattled corporation after ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned in disgrace.

In 2015, VW's own-brand sales fell 5% to 5.82 million vehicles worldwide, the first decline in 11 years, the company revealed.

VW owns 12 brands in all, including  Audi, Porsche and Skoda, and overall group sales were down 2% last year at 9.93 million vehicles, the first fall since 2002.

On top of lost earnings, VW is also facing a barrage of different legal complaints related to the scandal. 

In the United States, Volkswagen faces potentially huge damages to pay over the pollution cheat devices on its diesel-engine cars.

On Monday the carmaker also said it would intensify "the interaction between its digitalization and design activities–-a groundbreaking approach for the automotive industry".

Johann Jungwirth, VW's chief digital officer, was also hopeful of a full recovery: "I am firmly convinced we will become a leading mobility provider by 2025," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016