Volkswagen could start recalling cars containing emissions cheating software in January, according to the scandal-hit firm's new chief executive.

Matthias Mueller told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he hoped all affected cars would be repaired for free by the end of next year.

The Volkswagen UK website is now offering an online tool for customers to check if their cars are affected.

If all goes according to plan, we can start the recall in January. All the cars should be fixed by the end of 2016.

Matthias Mueller
The firm has warned that difficult changes are ahead. Credit: Reuters

Some 1.2 million diesel vehicles in the UK are among 11 million cars worldwide affected by the scandal which has done untold damage to VW's reputation.

Mueller told the newspaper that he believed only a few employees were involved in rigging the diesel emissions tests.

He insisted the firm could recover from the furore, saying "evolution" not "revolution" was needed to get it back on track.

He warned staff that necessary changes "will not be painless" - hinting at possible job cuts.