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.
While Volkswagen Group’s diesel lawsuits are more or less settled in the United States, 470,000 diesel owners in Germany are still fighting to see their payday. Unfortunately, the courts aren’t certain they’re deserving.
The court hasn’t settled on anything, but Monday’s introductory hearing concluded with presiding Judge Michael Neef wondering what customers actually lost by having their vehicles equipped with emissions-cheating software. The court claims its primary goal is to assess whether or not any loss in value can be attributed to vehicle bans that came years after VW’s diesel scandal broke. It’s concerned that drivers’ ability to continue using the automobiles doesn’t warrant awarding owners damages.
“It doesn’t make sense to us that drivers should be granted the right to use cars for free,” Neef said on behalf of the three judges hearing the case, according to Bloomberg. “Otherwise, we would have to grant punitive damages that do not exist under German law.”
Volkswagen Group said on Thursday that it would be petitioning Germany’s constitutional court to overturn the appointment of a special auditor to investigate the actions of its management during its diesel emissions scandal. Appointed last November, the auditor’s goal is to establish whether or not VW’s top brass withheld information about the manipulation of vehicle emissions as they related to testing.
Even thought the automaker has said it wanted to improve transparency shortly after the scandal kicked off in September of 2015, Volkswagen wants the work of the auditor suspended prior to the constitutional-court hearing against it. This begs the question: Does VW still have something to hide or is it so fed up with the litigation surrounding “dieselgate” that it’ll do just about anything to keep officials from dredging up the past?
One of the handful of Volkswagen Group executives that have been forced to appear in front of a judge over the company’s widespread emission scandal, Oliver Schmidt, has exclaimed he was misused by his employer after issuing a guilty plea. Unless the charges are revised prior to sentencing, the former VW employee has copped to conspiracy to defraud the federal government and violating the Clean Air Act. A third charge of aiding and abetting wire fraud was rolled into the conspiracy charge.
The admission to corporate wrongdoing was made in August. However the claim that the company had taken advantage of him came later via a letter to U.S. judge Sean Cox.
Oliver Schmidt, former top executive at Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Michigan, is ready to plead guilty in a U.S. District Court in Detroit next month. Schmidt is charged with 11 felony counts relating to VW’s diesel emissions scandal and may be eligible for a maximum sentence of 169 years, according to federal prosecutors.
While the trial isn’t scheduled until August 4th, a spokesman for the court indicated the former-VW executive is seeking a plea deal. The details of the bargain are currently unknown, but it’s likely to involve a reduced sentence in exchange of information on the scandal’s murky history.
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.
Volkswagen has negotiated a conclusive plan with the U.S. Department of Justice for a criminal and civil settlement worth $4.3 billion. While the company has confirmed the status of the settlement, it also stated that the full impact of the deal on its annual finances could not yet be established.
Germany’s largest carmaker said Tuesday that it anticipates a guilty plea in response to the criminal charges against it. It also expects to pay the full settlement over accusations that it intentionally modified over half of a million diesel vehicles with software designed to cheat U.S. emissions standards.
Volkswagen Group has agreed to shell out $200 million into a reserve created to reduce diesel pollution, a stipulation in the pending agreements made over the 3.0-liter diesels that polluted well over the United State’s legal limit.
The finalized agreement between VW and U.S. lawmakers is expected to come by Monday, pending the company’s decision on what to do about the 80,000 Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche vehicles with emissions-cheating diesel engines still on the road. Legal representatives for the carmaker, affected consumers, and the Justice Department have indicated that negotiations are still progressing, however VW may still have to go to trial if a final agreement isn’t reached soon.
As U.S. and European authorities gear-up for another round of investigations, Volkswagen confirmed Audi did produce cars equipped with software that can distort emission test results. Although VW was careful not to be too committal in its wording, hinting at it being a handy driver’s assist instead of a defeat device.
This must be a great time to be a corporate lawyer.
Volkswagen’s expensive diesel emissions scandal has forced cost cutting on anything that isn’t electric and its rally team is next on the chopping block. Quitting while ahead is ideal but abandoning a program due to financial woes and public shame after a hot streak doesn’t exactly smack of going out on top.
That, Toyota invents a box that allows anyone to use your car, Tesla’s zero-emission credits may soon be worth less, and Ford makes peace with its Canadian autoworkers at the buzzer… after the break!
If you were thinking a vehicle manufacturer backed by a billionaire with a futuristic hyper-car concept and hundreds of millions of dollars in government tax incentives wouldn’t have problems paying the bills, you would be wrong.
That, Hyundai executives are taking a “voluntary” cut in pay, German prosecutors could be letting Volkswagen’s top brass off the hook, and Honda markets a car you can only drive in California… after the break!
The halo effect isn’t working for Acura with its NSX.
That, governments in Canada and those of states in the U.S. are still looking to make Volkswagen suffer for crimes against nature, Ford decides to stop producing the F-150 for a bit, Subaru reconsiders its headquarters in New Jersey, and VW could be forced to buy back all its vehicles sold with defeat devices … after the break!
More autonomy is coming to North American Volkswagen operations, thanks in part to dealer protests calling for exactly that.
Today, Volkswagen established a new North American Region (NAR) encompassing Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, headed by no-longer-interim Volkswagen Group of America president and CEO Hinrich J. Woebcken (who replaced departing CEO Michael Horn in March).
Volkswagen dealers in the U.S. have formed a go-to team tasked with drawing compensation out of the automaker while avoiding a looming barrage of dealer lawsuits.
The five-member committee was formed at a dealers-only meeting held yesterday at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas, one day before U.S. dealers were expected to meet with top Volkswagen brass, Automotive News has reported.
The move is designed to head off a potential slew of lawsuits from U.S. dealers seeking reparations for sunk costs and lost revenue stemming from the automaker’s expansion push and subsequent diesel emissions scandal.
It wasn’t so clean, was it?
The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Volkswagen on March 29, claiming the automaker’s “Clean Diesel” ad campaign was a deception that tricked buyers into purchasing its supposedly eco-friendly vehicles.
By filing the complaint against Volkswagen, the FTC (which can’t levy fines) would be able to seek compensation for buyers via a federal court order.
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