Practically every major manufacturer is touting electric cars as the future of automobiles. There’s good reason to believe them.
With few exceptions, automakers are aggressively pushing toward battery driven vehicles to meet ever more stringent regulatory demands. Several brands plan on fleet-wide electrification within a few years and a handful already snub internal combustion engines entirely. But there may be a massive problem on the horizon ready to handicap the greener future many of us were prepared to embrace.
Volkswagen, a company that has been promoting its own electric revolution in the wake of its diesel emission fiasco, is anticipating a serious lithium-ion battery shortage by 2025. Based on targets of achieving 25 percent of Volkswagen’s total volume from electric vehicles in 10 years, Ulrich Eichhorn, VW’s head of research and development, dramatically increased projections made 13 months ago.
Previous estimates from the company had the number set at 150 gigawatt-hours of electricity.
“We will need more than 200 gigawatt-hours,” Eichhorn stated on June 30th during a presentation at Volkswagen’s proving grounds north of Wolfsburg.
Throughout the entirety of Volkswagen’s diesel emission scandal, the automaker has changed its tune on several occasions. After evading scrutiny from regulators for years, it finally admitted to installing illegal defeat devices designed to fool U.S. emission testing in late 2015. However, it assured the public that no high-ranking executive had complete knowledge of the misdeed until news of the scandal broke to outraged consumers.
Obviously, that was a lie. But no damning evidence came out indicating anyone above mid-level management had prior knowledge of the devices or any idea they would be so harmful to the company. But now a Volkswagen manager arrested earlier this year claims the automaker’s former chief executive and other top managers had been told the carmaker’s diesel emissions violations could cost up to $18.5 billion, well before the September 2015 announcement.
There’s nothing like the antics automakers get up to when fierce rivalry or falling sales forces an emergency pressing of the desperation button. Just last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles found itself in quite a bit of hot water after its long-running sales-recording practices came under the federal microscope. Mounting pressure eventually forced the company to dial back its monthly figures, shattering some advertisement-friendly sales streaks.
Across the pond, Volkswagen now finds itself with egg (quiche?) on its face following a report by its internal auditors. According to German publication Der Spiegel, the automaker plumped up its French sales tallies for years — to the tune of at least 800,000 vehicles.
The details of this latest case of sales fudging, which apparently went undiscovered for seven years, seem particularly brazen.
While the United States concluded its investigation into Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions scandal months ago, the wheels of justice turn appear to turn more slowly in Germany.
Prosecutors in Stuttgart have launched a preliminary investigation into employees at Porsche to assess whether they were involved in designing any of the company’s emissions-cheating software. Porsche is the latest addition in a governmental probe against Volkswagen Group. German prosecutors have already launched a formal investigation against the core brand and Audi.
Prosecutor Jan Holzner explained on Thursday, however, that the Porsche inquiry was not yet a formal investigation. The same could not be said of managers at Bosch, who Holzner believes may have had a role in aiding and abetting Volkwagen’s emissions fraud.
Volkswagen Group is continuing to clean house and has made plans to eliminate a significant number of its management staff using the same “early retirement” tactics offered to its longstanding labor force. It’s another obvious attempt on VW’s part to remake itself into a younger, forward-thinking automaker following the diesel emissions scandal — and save itself some money in the process.
While the layoffs aren’t explicitly targeted at Germany, the majority of outgoing managers will certainly come from its European workforce. Volkswagen has declined to comment on the exact number of hangers-on potentially affected by the plan.
Porsche Automobil Holding SE has denied it intentionally misled investors over the severity of the VW emissions cheating crisis in 2015. With Volkswagen AG’s Chief Executive Officer Matthias Müller now personally caught up in the growing market manipulation investigation, it was only a matter of time before Porsche Automobil Holding released a statement to assure investors the board had done its job appropriately.
Müller’s joining of former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, supervisory board chair Hans Dieter Poetsch, and board member Herbert Diess as the focus of government probes has made the situation appear fishier than a trawler’s top deck. However, at this week’s annual shareholders meeting, Poetsch said he is convinced none of the board members are guilty of any wrongdoing — presumably, he included himself in the statement.
“We perceive all legal claims against Porsche SE relating to the diesel issue as unfounded,” he explained.
The National Labor Relations Board has again accused Volkswagen of unfair labor practices, stating the automaker increased health insurance premiums and altered working hours of employees who voted for union representation at its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory.
The facility — VW’s only U.S. assembly plant — produces the Passat and new Atlas SUV. A small portion of skilled-trade employees voted in 2015 to be represented by the United Auto Workers, but VW is claiming they shouldn’t speak for the entire workforce.
However, the NLRB says the UAW’s collective-bargaining rights for the select workers who maintain the plant’s automated machinery can’t be superseded by the federal appeals court case.
“Wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment of the Unit … are mandatory subjects for the purposes of collective bargaining,” reads the complaint.
Volkswagen Group’s core brand has targeted an end to profit losses in the North America by the end of the decade, setting its break-even point for 2020. Central themes of the plan are dependent on cost cutting measures and higher-margin SUV models it believes will bring it back from emissions scandal purgatory. In its most recent announcement, VW continued to tout electric vehicles as an inevitable key focus by 2025, but hasn’t lifted the veil on all that entails.
In the short term, however, Volkswagen is promising the “biggest product offensive in its history,” with ten new models coming this year alone. In actuality the number is half that, as five of those vehicles are updated versions of existing models. The real number could be even smaller if VW is counting the Atlas/Teramont as separate vehicles; the same goes for the two wheelbases of the Tiguan. And, based on the information it provided us, that does appear to be the case.
After history’s largest and most expensive automotive scandal forced a sudden pivot at Volkswagen Group — from expansion-minded to profit-focused — the German automaker might let go of a cherished toy.
According to insider sources who spoke to Reuters, VW is exploring the sale of Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati as part of a company-wide streamlining effort. After shoveling over $20 billion to the United States in a bid to end its diesel debacle, the company is in full penny-pinching mode.
The revered boutique motorcycle company was a long-awaited feather in ex-VW chairman Ferdinand Piëch’s hat, but after just five years of ownership, it may be time for Ducati to find a new home.
Audi issued a press release today to remind the world that it’s going to be Germany’s preeminent source for sport utility vehicles. While every major automaker is making a push into the segment, Volkswagen Group has assigned Audi with one of the largest.
Today, the company outlined its production strategy for the forthcoming Q4 and Q8 models, reaffirming its claim that crossovers could account for half of its global sales in the very near future. By 2019, Audi will have expanded its SUV lineup to include seven individual models and increased its overall production volume to meet the growing demand.
Earlier this week, we reported on an influx of complaints from diesel owners who were required by law to permit Volkswagen to rectify their emission rigged engines. The consensus was that the company has not done a great job. If a veterinarian fixed a pet in the same manner that VW “fixed” these cars, you would probably put it out of its misery and then throttle the vet for butchering your now-ruined family companion.
Owners of the vehicles have complained of units lacking their former oomph, shuddering, stalling, and even being difficult to restart. While not every driver reported identical problems, the majority agreed Volkswagen had ravaged the engines’ ability to make power. At the time, nobody knew exactly how extensive the losses were. But, as the powerband-sapping solution closes in on North America, those numbers have come in.
One of the preeminent figures within the European automotive industry is looking to get out of the family business. The former paterfamilias of Volkswagen AG, Ferdinand Piech, is looking to dump his stake of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and sever his remaining ties to VW. Piech’s shares would remain within the Porsche-Piech family — allowing them to keep control of Volkswagen Group — but Ferdinand would be out of the game as a majority stakeholder.
Piech has been at odds with his relatives after suggesting that Wolfgang Porsche and several other VW supervisory board members had been aware of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating much earlier than they claimed. Sources close to the family, whose members are apparently outraged, have stated that the Porsche-Piech gang sought to replace him at the table of Porsche Holdings ever since.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne changed his stance on the appeal of a potential merger with Volkswagen AG, saying he now has “zero interest” after being publicly spurned by company CEO Matthias Müller.
Marchionne had previously expressed a repeated interest in sharing business with the German automaker, especially with regard to green technologies.
However, after an initial remark where he said he was “not ruling out a conversation,” Müller explained that he had no direct contact with the FCA CEO. “It would be very helpful if Mr. Marchionne were to communicate his considerations to me too and not just to you,” Müller told German reporters on Tuesday. “I am pretty confident about the future of Volkswagen, with or without Marchionne,” he concluded.
As Volkswagen Group’s emission scandal settles down in the United States, things in Europe remain unresolved. German police raided the headquarters of Volkswagen and Audi as part of the never-ending investigations into the company’s diesel cheating.
The German blitz was carefully orchestrated as investigators simultaneously hit Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, the corporate offices at its Neckarsulm plant, and VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. Separate spokesmen from VW and Audi confirmed the raids, both adding they’re cooperating with authorities.
You want a Škoda Kodiaq. Your neighbor wants a Škoda Kodiaq. I want a Škoda Kodiaq. Naturally, we all want Škoda Kodiaqs, because the grass is always greener on the other side.
But what if the Kodiaq wasn’t only available on the other side of the Atlantic? What if persistent talk of a potential North American Škoda return resulted in a Kodiaq on sale at a dealer near you? How inexpensive would the Kodiaq need to be in order for your persistent desire for unobtanium turn in to a real purchasing decision?
Škoda would likely charge in the neighborhood of USD $24,995 if the Kodiaq, set to go on sale across the pond in April 2017, made its way to the United States.
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