Extensive Probing Continues In Germany
While companies are often found guilty of sketchy and illicit behavior, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to feel some measure of sympathy for German automakers. The same goes for the government officials whose job it is to repeatedly raid the homes and offices of people employed by those manufacturers. Once gain, German prosecutors have searched both Volkswagen and BMW over diesel-related shenanigans.
Volkswagen saw 13 of its offices raided in Wolfsburg throughout the month of March. Braunschweig-based authorities seized physical and digital files in the hopes of catching the automaker in a lie from 2015. At the time, VW claimed an in-house investigation found it had understated fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions on no more than 36,000 vehicles. Considering the diesel emissions scandal affected far more vehicle than this, as well as the company’s much higher earlier estimate, prosecutors hope to catch the company out.
Meanwhile, BMW saw its facilities searched over suspicions that it employed a defeat device to circumvent diesel emission testing. The automaker said authorities were looking into “erroneously allocated” software on the BMW 750d and BMW M550d.
At this point, these types of investigations have been commonplace for German automakers for a couple of years. However, the raids don’t appear to be getting the kind of results one might expect. In the United States, Volkswagen was convicted of criminal wrongdoing less than three years after the California Air Resources Board received a study published by the International Council on Clean Transportation that raised flags about the possibility of a software manipulation. Germany had reason to be suspect for at least as long, yet its investigative paths are much slower (and often meandering).
Whether German investigators are looking in the wrong places or there is simply nothing there to find is unknown. But the round-robin searches often have very different goals, even while possessing a similar theme. According to Reuters, the March searches at Volkswagen’s headquarters specifically related to the possibility of unlawful alterations to testing data. Federal prosecutors said on Tuesday they were investigating unknown individuals over suspicions of market manipulation.
Meanwhile, the Braunschweig investigative team admits to targeting VW’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn, former finance chief and current chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, and current VW brand CEO Herbert Diess over possible market manipulation related to the dieselgate scandal. VW denies any such market manipulations, though it confirms the earlier searches.
Manfred Doess, head of legal affairs at VW’s majority stakeholder Porsche SE, said he doesn’t expect much to come of the investigation. “In my judgement, nothing will come out of this,” he said during the holding firm’s earnings press conference on Tuesday.
As for BMW, German state prosecutors announced they had searched corporate facilities in Germany and Austria, investigating suspected emissions-cheating defeat devices. Automotive News reports that roughly 100 police and law enforcement officials raided the automaker’s Munich headquarters, along with research facilities and an engine plant in Steyr, Austria.
“There is an early suspicion that BMW has used a test bench-related defeat device,” prosecutors said in a statement.
BMW recently recalled 11,700 cars to fix engine management software it said was programmed incorrectly. But denies all accusations of targeted emissions manipulation.
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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