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Ex VW CEO charged

Martin Winterkorn, VW’s CEO.

The indictment of the former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned promptly after the emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, significantly raises the stakes for Volkswagen.

The charge contradicts Volkswagen’s unwavering insistence that no management members were involved. It also weakens the company’s defence in related proceedings by shareholders — potentially adding billions of dollars to the scandal’s already monumental cost.

The New York Times reports that the US President, Donald Trump has been attempting to water down auto emissions standards, however, the indictment indicates that the Justice Department continues to pursue an investigation of the German carmaker that began during the Obama administration. 

The accusations against Winterkorn also raises further questions about the thoroughness of Volkswagen’s internal investigation of the wrongdoing. 

“Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.”

”The indictment of Winterkorn alleges that he was informed of VW’s diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The indictment further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed of the emissions cheating, agreed with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive U.S. regulators.

The scandal has continued to plague the automaker. Last month, CEO Matthias Müller stepped down from the CEO role three years after replacing Winterkorn.

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Hybrid VW golf confirmed

48-V belt-integrated starter generator, 48-V battery and DC/DC converter

Volkswagen has confirmed an upcoming hybrid model of the eighth-generation Golf. 

Due to be revealed in 2019, the next-generation Golf will be offered with an all-new 48-V mild hybrid option that will work alongside Volkswagen’s current 12-V system.

Volkswagen already offers a completely electric e-Golf, which is currently one of New Zealand’s best selling electric vehicles (EVs), however, the next-generation Golf will be the first time Volkswagen use the new hybrid option, which will be utilised in further models.

Volkswagen will combine a combustion engine with a new 48-V belt-integrated starter generator and a 48-V battery. The mild hybrid system will enable the new Golf to ‘coast’ while the combustion engine is completely switched off, saving up to 0.3 litres of fuel over 100 kilometres while promising improved dynamics and convenience with an “electric boost.”

“Electrifying conventional drives will enable us to further reduce consumption and emissions while also increasing dynamics and convenience”, says Dr Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Volkswagen Passenger Cars with responsibility for Technical Development.

Welsch continues: “We are starting this extensive electrification campaign with Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle to date – the Golf. Our newly developed, cost-effective 48-V mild hybrid will pave the way for introducing this type of technology to the mainstream”.

Volkswagen states that the 48-V system enables a considerably higher amount of energy to be saved than the 12-V system, e.g. via recuperation when the vehicle brakes. This high level of voltage enables a number of operations, including the actuation of the 48-V belt-integrated starter generator.

The generator performs the role of alternator and starter. At the same time, it functions as a small, lightweight electric motor that immediately increases drive torque upon start-up by means of an electric boost. The power of the generator is transferred via a belt. The generator also starts the combustion engine – which is switched off as much as possible while the vehicle is moving.

Welsch continues: “The basic interaction of different energy sources – electricity, petrol, diesel and natural gas – represents a paradigm shift at Volkswagen. For the first time, the company will simultaneously offer product lines such as the Golf with conventional, electrically assisted drives as well as product lines such as the I.D. with purely electrical drives in the future.”

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VW’s handling criticised

Volkswagen Group has been criticised for their internal handling of the emissions scandal that rocked the car manufacturer and auto industry. 

Their independent monitor, the former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, has released his first report saying he is unhappy about the near-absence of personnel measures in Germany after the scandal, according to Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Thompson also laments the lack of a “true cultural change” at VW, the paper said.

Thompson believes he has not seen enough earnestness in VW’s response to the scandal, according to Bild am Sonntag.

As part of its settlement with US authorities over the scandal, VW agreed to allow a monitor to assess and oversee its compliance for at least three years. 

Thompson started his role last August, working from offices at the automaker’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. Thompson has built up a team of more than 20 staff.

New Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has told his top executives that Thompson’s document points to a need for action, Bild am Sonntag reported.

The monitor represents “an opportunity to become more honest, more open, and more truthful – and a bit more “upstanding,” Diess wrote in an internal memo, according to the paper.

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VW has record-breaking month

The Volkswagen Group has come roaring back from the emission-fixing scandal with the company announcing a record delivery month in March.

The Volkswagen Group recorded its best-ever delivery result for a single month in March. The Group also finished the first quarter with an all-time record.

At 1.04 million, deliveries by the Volkswagen Group in March were 5.3 per cent higher than March 2016. Over 2.6 million vehicles were handed over to customers in the first quarter of the year (up 7.4 per cent).

“The first-quarter results confirm the attractiveness of our products. However, this good performance does not mean we can let up in our efforts; instead, we must continue to strengthen customers’ trust in our brands and products in the second quarter as well”, Fred Kappler, Head of Group Sales at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, said.

European sales were up 4.1 per cent while North American sales increased 3.4 percent. Growth continued at a solid clip in the Asia-Pacific region where 1,090,200 vehicles were delivered in the first quarter. This represented a 12 percent increase year over year.

Volkswagen remained the group’s most popular brand, accounting for more than 1.5 million of the first quarter deliveries. Audi is the second most popular, with 463,800 deliveries.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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VW set to replace Müller as CEO

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by the scandal

Volkswagen is set to replace its chief executive, Matthias Müller, due to the diesel emissions scandal that has cost the car manufacturer billions of dollars, led to the imprisonment of two executives, and ruined the German carmaker’s reputation.

Two people with knowledge of the situation told the New York Times that Herbert Diess, who is in charge of the company’s flagship Volkswagen brand, was likely to succeed Müller. The company said earlier on Tuesday that it was considering a leadership change, and a final decision was expected by the end of the week.

In the statement, Volkswagen said it was considering “a further development of the management structure of the group,” which could “include a change in the position of the chairman of the board of management,” referring to Müller.

Political leaders are currently pressing the German carmaker to compensate diesel owners who bought cars that turned out to be dirtier than advertised, which could add to the already huge cost of the scandal.

Müller, 64, took over Volkswagen days after it admitted in September 2015 that it had cheated on diesel emissions tests, installing illegal software in 11 million vehicles.

He succeeded in preventing a collapse of sales and profits. But Müller, who has spent his entire career at Volkswagen or its subsidiaries, struggled to deliver on his promise to remake the company’s solid foundation.

However, the carmaker has continued to suffer blows to its reputation, including revelations in January that it had financed tests on monkeys in an attempt to show that diesel exhaust was not as dangerous as it once was.

“This is a chance for Volkswagen to make a change,” said Christian Strenger, the former chief executive of Deutsche Bank’s wealth management division, who is suing Volkswagen because he said it violated its duty to shareholders by failing to be forthcoming about the emissions scandal. 

Diess has led Volkswagen’s push to mass produce electric cars, which are seen as essential to the company’s ability to defend itself against challengers like Tesla, Uber and Google that are trying to upend the auto industry.

German prosecutors have not charged anyone in the Volkswagen case, but they expect to complete their investigation this year.

Two former Volkswagen executives are currently serving prison sentences in the US after pleading guilty to charges including conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act.

Müller was a high-ranking executive involved in product development at the same time that the company was developing the illegal software and deploying it in vehicles, however he has insisted he was ignorant of any wrongdoing, but he has faced the accusation that he was part of a system that allowed it to take place.

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VW settles emission lawsuit in US

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by the scandal

Volkswagen has settled a lawsuit brought by a North Carolina man whose car was equipped with software that concealed excess diesel emissions right before the case was set to go to trial.

The trial could have featured testimony from current and former VW executives and would likely have caused a spate of bad press for the automaker regarding the Dieselgate scandal.

Before the settlement on Friday, Virginia state court judge, Bruce D. White, rejected a request by the German automaker to delay the trial because of “inflammatory” comments made by a lawyer representing the affected car owners.

David Doar bought a 2014 diesel Jetta for $23,700 and had rejected a settlement offer from a 2016 class-action agreement that would have reimbursed him for the value of the vehicle. He had sought $725,000 plus lawyers’ fees in legal filings.

Volkswagen said early this month that its case has been prejudiced by recent publicity about how the company financed research, in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

Nearly all American owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 that addressed claims from them, environmental regulators, states and dealers. The settlement included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners.

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VW PR chief takes the blame

Thomas Steg – Volkswagen’s head of external relations and sustainability

Automaker Volkswagen’s head of external relations and sustainability has stepped aside from his duties after the recent controversy over experiments in which humans and monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

Matthias Mueller – chief executive of Volkswagen

 “We are currently in the process of investigating the work of the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing all the necessary consequences. Mr. Steg has declared that he will assume full responsibility. I respect his decision,” said the CEO of Volkswagen, Matthias Müller.

Ms. Merkel, through her spokesman, was among the political leaders and auto industry executives who in recent days condemned the experiments at a lab in Albuquerque, in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

The project was financed by German carmakers, who wanted to show that diesel cars were less of a threat to human health than groups such as the World Health Organization have claimed.

A separate project also financed by the carmakers subjected human volunteers in Germany to doses of nitrogen dioxide, one of diesel’s most noxious by-products.

Environmental groups and other critics of Volkswagen said the suspension of Mr. Steg, whose formal title at Volkswagen is head of external relations and sustainability, made him a sacrificial lamb meant to insulate the company’s top managers from consequences.

These critics drew parallels with the Volkswagen emissions scandal, in which the company initially said that a small number of rogue engineers were responsible for installing software intended to dupe regulators. German prosecutors have since identified dozens of suspects.

“They are again playing the game where the subordinates were the culprits,” said Christian Strenger, a former member of a commission that wrote Germany’s rules on corporate governance. Mr. Strenger is among the people suing Volkswagen for violating its legal obligations to shareholders.

The experiments that preceded Mr. Steg’s suspension were conducted at a laboratory in Albuquerque for the European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, known by its German initials, E.U.G.T.

The organisation was financed entirely by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. (Bosch, a major German auto parts supplier, had been a member but dropped out in 2013.)

In recent days, the three carmakers have repudiated the work of the group, even though all three were represented on the organisation’s five-person board of directors, and all three contributed money to the group.

Matthias Müller, Volkswagen’s chief executive, said in a statement Tuesday that the company is conducting a thorough investigation of the research “and will draw all the necessary consequences.”

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Diesel fume experiments revealed

Reports of experiments that exposed humans and monkeys to diesel fumes have the Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW scrambling to distance themselves from the situation. 

The automakers are promising to investigate the tests whose disclosure now threatens to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that’s dogged the industry since 2015. 

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by deepening scandals.

The study, conducted by the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), had 25 people expose themselves to diesel exhaust fumes at different concentrations and for several hours, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported Monday.  

The actions further undermine diesel’s image, steepening an uphill battle to rescue the technology amid worsening political headwinds.

“This is another hit for diesel and shows how carmakers overstepped the mark morally and ethically in their fight to make diesel socially acceptable,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

“This news means more pressure for politicians to act on diesel.”

At the weekend, the German automakers also confirmed that the EUGT researchers they commissioned used monkeys to test the health effects of inhaling diesel fumes. 

The monkeys were exposed to the exhaust fumes of an older and a modern diesel vehicle, so the progress of the technology could be demonstrated. 

The circumstances of the study, and details on how it was conducted, are contained in a sworn deposition of Jake McDonald, a scientist who oversaw the project.

McDonald said in the deposition, which was taken as part of diesel emissions suit filed against Volkswagen, that the monkeys were shown cartoons during hours of tests to help keep them calm.

“We believe that the scientific methods used to conduct the study were wrong and that it would have been better not to undertake it at all,” Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday.

“We are shocked by the extent and application of the studies … We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms,” carmaker Daimler wrote.

The German government also condemned the tests. ‘These tests … are in no ethical way justifiable and they raise many critical questions about those who are behind the tests,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


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Golf 8 to arrive in 2020

Volkswagen claims that the next Golf will become the benchmark in safety and connectivity, when the hatchback begins production in late 2019.

2018 Golf family – Volkswagen

“In 75 weeks, the eighth generation of the bestseller in the compact segment is to roll off the production lines at Volkswagen’s main plant, in Wolfsburg, Europe’s largest car factory,” a VW spokesperson said at the ‘Golf 8 Supplier Summit.’

 VW will start production of the Golf-sized I.D. battery-powered hatchback at the same time as the new Golf in June 2019.

It will go on sale in 2020 at a price comparable to a Golf diesel.

The design will be overseen by Porsche stylist Michael Mauer.

“With expanded autonomous driving functions, the next Golf leads Volkswagen into the era of fully connected automobiles,” said Karlheinz Hell, responsible for VW brand’s compact car family.

“It will always be online and serve as the benchmark in safety and connectivity thanks to its digital cockpit and assistance systems.”

VW purchasing chief Ralf Brandstaetter said the coming Golf generation is “strategically the most important for the brand next to the I.D. family.” 

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VW sales chief quits

U.S. sales chief quits due to declining delivery numbers.

A senior U.S. sales manager has quit the Volkswagen North America branch just as the carmaker’s deliveries in the world’s second-largest auto market fall steeply.

Ron Stach, senior vice president of sales at Volkswagen of America, has left the automaker, a spokesman for VW in the United States said on Saturday.

VW said last Wednesday that its U.S. sales rose 5.2 per cent to 339,676 brand models last year but plunged 19 per cent in December after posting their first monthly drop in 2017 in November.

The world’s largest automaker by sales is keen to end losses in the United States by the end of the decade, counting on a series of higher-margin new models and structural changes as it struggles to draw a line under its diesel emissions test cheating scandal which broke in the United States in 2015.

Stach will be replaced temporarily by Derrick Hatami who joined VW of America last June as executive vice president for sales and marketing, VW said.

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