Dieselgate. It was one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent history, resulting in billions of dollars in fines, CEOs stepping down in shame, a few scattered criminal charges, and the death of Volkswagen’s beloved TDI diesel engine line in North America. You could even argue that the current accelerated push for EVs is just ongoing fallout from the initial Dieselgate dirty bomb. But by far the worst thing about Dieselgate is that I saw things happening with my own eyes back in 2008, had no idea what I was looking at, and blew my chance to break the biggest automotive news of the decade.
Allow me to set the stage a bit.
Volkswagen Group intends to fire a group of employees implicated in the diesel emissions fraud scandal. German prosecutors in Brunswick have identified an inner circle of 39 “suspicious engineers” it believes contributed directly to the emissions cheating. It’s expected that VW will carry out these terminations as quickly as possible, with additional waves of firings to follow.
According to Handelsblatt, Volkswagen made the decision to cleanse its ranks after being granted access to the prosecution’s investigation files in July. The automaker followed up with a series of employee “interviews” and a month-long review process. VW has already announced the dismissal of six high-ranking employees, with former development head Heinz-Jakob Neußer (Neusser) being the most noteworthy.
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it had approved a fix for the remaining 38,000 Volkswagen Group vehicles equipped with emissions-cheating 3.0-liter diesel engines. That’s potentially very good news for Volkswagen, as it’s a decision that could save the company a truckload of cash.
In May, VW agreed to spend over $1.22 billion to repair or buy back nearly 80,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter engines as part of its “dieselgate” settlement. The manufacturer was also obliged to pay owners of fixed units between $8,500 and $17,000. However, there was an additional fine of $4.04 billion if the EPA and California Air Resources Board were unwilling to approve repairs on all 3.0-liter vehicles.
With a fix now in place for 38,000 Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, and Audi Q7 SUVs, the company may have just saved itself a over a billion dollars.
Volkswagen AG has announced a new U.S. unit that will manage its hefty court-mandated investments in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and green awareness programs.
Electrify America LLC, located in Reston, Virginia, is supposed to be entirely separate from Volkswagen Group’s automotive brands and owned as a subsidiary of VW of America. It will oversee $2 billion in initiatives to promote the use of zero emissions vehicles in the U.S. over the next ten years as part of VW’s diesel emissions settlement.
Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, Volkswagen’s outgoing compliance chief, will receive at least $12 million for her time with the company — with the possibility for as much as $16.1 million (15 million euros). Hohmann-Dennhardt, who was brought on to get VW through its messy emissions crisis, was canned by the automaker last week. The company attributed the “amicable” split to a “disagreement in the understanding of responsibilities and future operating structures within the function she leads.”
New reports indicate that a central aspect of those disagreements involved Volkswagen’s upper management attempting to stop Hohmann-Dennhardt from exposing any additional information on how the emissions scandal transpired.
Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, Volkswagen Group AG’s compliance chief, is leaving the company after disputes with VW’s senior management regarding her responsibilities. Those duties primarily revolve around ensuring the automaker adheres to regulatory requirements — something Volkswagen has had a difficult time with as of late.
After only a year with the company, Volkswagen confirmed Hohmann-Dennhardt will be leaving at the end of this month. According to an official statement, her exodus is “due to differences in their understanding of responsibilities and future operating structures within the function she leads.”
Considering her role on the supervisory board consisted wholly of seeing Volkswagen through the devastating emissions crisis while improving its image and ensuring it did not commit anymore egregious unlawful acts, you have to wonder what those differences in understanding entailed.
A lawsuit has been filed in Germany against Volkswagen in the hopes of forcing the automaker to buy back emission-cheating cars in Europe in the same manner it was ordered to in the United States.
The suit, filed today by a solitary vehicle owner, will become the test case for thousands of other European claimants and aims to put pressure on VW to compensate continental customers for the ongoing emissions scandal.
If you were considering stripping your Volkswagen diesel prior to returning it, hit the brakes on that project immediately. VW’s nonspecific wording in the buyback terms created a gray area of legality that a few emissions scandal-affected owners decided to test, removing unessential portions of their 2.0-liter TDI-equipped models.
However, after a particularly thorough set of peelings, a federal judge warned opportunistic owners not to strip parts out of their vehicles before attempting to sell them back to Volkswagen through the company’s emissions settlement.
Volkswagen appears to be suiting up for an impending battle. The road has been a long and difficult, but the diesel emissions scandal seems as if it’s about to begin its third and final act.
Dozens of German Volkswagen AG officials have hired criminal defense lawyers as the United States Department of Justice elevates its investigation into the company. U.S. authorities have traveled across the Atlantic to conduct additional interviews with managers and gather further evidence on VW’s plot to elude America’s emission regulations.
The California regulator that played an important part in uncovering Volkswagen Group’s emissions cheating plot detailed a list of options on how the automaker will be required to spend the $800 million penance by advancing green tech and nonpolluting cars.
Some of the choices the California Air Resources Board came up with are truly terrible.
Volkswagen’s automotive group had $29.6 billion in net liquidity at the the end of the third fiscal quarter of this year. About $10.8 billion is allocated to protect the company’s credit ratings. That leaves about $19 billion in cash for the company to work with.
There are fines that will be paid in a number of countries, along with goodwill gestures to owners of affected VW vehicles and incentives needed to sell cars from a tainted brand. Then there will the cost of litigation and any judgments or settlements that come out of those lawsuits.
About the same time as Barclays’ announcement, Automotive News and Bloomberg reported Volkswagen AG will be meeting in Wolfsburg this week with representatives of about a dozen banks to secure as much as $21.5 billion in loans by the end of this year. Those meetings aim to shore up the company’s financing and show the credit markets that VW has enough liquid assets to cover emissions-related costs.
According to the same source who revealed to TTAC that Volkswagen will announce next week its “TDI Goodwill Program”, the automaker will also begin to roll out fixes for affected diesel emissions cars in the U.S. in February.
The fix, which was mentioned to dealers and communicated to dealer staff, will comprise of an ECU flash. The details of the ECU flash itself and the specific vehicles to which it will apply were not provided.
It was reported previously that different generations of the affected EA189 diesel engine could receive varying levels of correction, from ECU flashes to the installation of full urea-fed SCR systems. This ECU flash could be just one of two or three fixes for Volkswagen’s dirty diesels.
Volkswagen has supposedly earmarked $4 billion to fix their diesel cars and public reputation in the U.S., which includes money the automaker will use to fund the “TDI Goodwill Program”, said the source.