Volkswagen Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges, Will Pay $4.3 Billion Fine

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen pleads guilty to criminal charges will pay 4 3 billion fine

The Volkswagen diesel emissions saga has reached a logical legal conclusion. The automaker entered a guilty plea in a Detroit federal courtroom this morning, admitting to a vast, 10-year conspiracy to fool environmental regulators through the use of emissions-cheating defeat devices.

As penance, Volkswagen AG must now pay $4.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties. That sum can now be added to the multi-billion U.S. buyback of hundreds of thousands of 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009. While the penalties would be a bitter pill for any automaker to swallow, it’s a fraction of the fine allowed under federal guidelines.

Had the court pursued it, it might have sparked a brand fire sale down at Volkswagen Group.

The plea entered by Manfred Doess, Volkswagen’s general counsel, was accepted by U.S. District Court judge Sean Cox.

“It is pleading guilty because it is guilty of all criminal counts,” said Doess when asked by Cox why the company entered the plea. Under existing laws, the federal government could have hit VW with a fine ranging from $17 billion to $34 billion.

While he didn’t name names, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal did dole out harsh words.

“This was a premeditated crime that went to a very high level in the corporate structure,” he said, adding the company destroyed documents to cover traces of its crimes. The plan to deceive the U.S. government was a “very calculated and well-thought-out offense,” he claimed.

By coming clean, the automaker helped lower its financial burden. VW has agreed to spend three years under the watchful eyes of an independent monitor, a move that led Neal to lower the criminal fine portion to $2.8 billion. Last year, the automaker admitted it might have to sell off some of its brands if penalties rose above a certain amount.

Sentencing has been set for April 21.

While the company has chosen to bite the bullet in the face of overwhelming evidence, the saga isn’t over for executives embroiled in the scandal. Six former and current executives were indicted earlier this year on conspiracy charges, with one, Oliver Schmidt, recently arraigned on charges of violating the Clean Air Act.

Investigations continue in VW’s home country. The company’s former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, is under investigation by German prosecutors who question his level of knowledge of the defeat device plot. A former employee has also accused Audi CEO Rupert Stadler of complicity in the deception.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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  • Brn Brn on Mar 10, 2017

    but, but, but.... What about the few rogue engineers that who are truly at fault for the scandal????

  • Jthorner Jthorner on Mar 11, 2017

    Criminal executives need to be doing jail time. We see the same story over and over again: 1) Executives commit massive white collar crimes to spike their bonuses. 2) Eventually found out. 3) Company pays multi-billion dollar fines. 4) Executives keep all of their bonuses. 5) Nobody does jail time.

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.