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VW’s emissions scandal bill hits $30bn

Amid arrests, falling share prices and continued uncertainty, Volkswagen’s bill from the ongoing emissions scandal has reached USD$30 Billion.

Reuters reports that on Thursday, German prosecutors arrested Wolfgang Hatz, the first top executive within the group to be detained amid a widening probe into cheating at VW’s Audi brand.

Wolfgang Hatz, arrested on Thursday by German prosecutors for his senior level role in VW’s emissions cheating scandal.

VW’s growing financial woes and Hatz’s arrest were also discussed on Friday at a regular meeting of the carmaker’s supervisory board, one person familiar with the matter said.

VW shares fell as much as 3 per cent on Friday, as traders and analysts reacted to the continuing fallout from the scandal.

VW, Europe’s biggest automaker, admitted in September 2015 that it had used illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest business crisis in its 80-year history. Before Friday, it had set aside 22.6 billion euros ($26.7 billion) to cover costs such as fines and vehicle refits.

Last year, VW agreed with U.S. authorities to spend up to $15.3 billion to buy back or fix up to 475,000 2.0-litre polluting diesel cars.

On Friday, VW said it was extending the timeline and setting aside an additional 2.5 billion euros (USD$3.0 billion) as hardware. VW says the complications will amount to 5,200 euros per car.

“We have to do more with the hardware,” a VW spokesman said.

In Europe, where only a software update is required for the 8.5 million affected cars, plus a minor component integration for about 3.7 million 1.6-litre vehicles included in that number, fixes are running smoothly, the spokesman added.

The additional provision will be reflected in third-quarter results due on October 27, VW said.

 

 

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Quattro Turbo smashes auction records

A 1991 Audi Quattro Turbo 20v broke auction records when it sold for £72,050 during the recent Classic Car Auctions in England.

Huge crowds turned out for one of the biggest one-day classic car sales of the year, and trade was brisk with about £2 million changing hands in five hours, with 77 per cent of the 166 cars on offer finding new homes.

The raucous applause for the Audi was repeated when a 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera Supersport racked up the highest price of day at £99,000, after a series of audacious bids pushed it almost £40,000 beyond its lower estimate.

Enthusiastic bidding was a theme on the day, with several cars attracting opening bids far above their estimates. A 1989 Daimler Double Six started with an opening bid £3,000 above its lower estimate, eventually selling for £13,750, and a 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S in Silver Rose started with a bid £5,000 above its lower estimate and sold for £34,100 after brisk bidding.

An unfinished 1970 Fixed Head Series II Jaguar E-Type 4.2 attracted serious attention in the room with fast-paced bidding pushing the final price to £40,700, over £16,000 more than the lower estimate, while a 1972 Triumph TR6 with overdrive was pushed £13,000 above its lower estimate after some tense brinkmanship among room and phone bidders to sell for £30,800.

The Triumph wasn’t the only traditional British sports car to do well at the auction, with a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 MkIII drawing applause on reaching its final sale price of £50,600, and an ex-award winning 1964 Triumph Spitfire 4 Mk1 that had recently fallen on hard times sold for £6,160 despite being offered at no reserve.

Seventies BMWs seem to the flavour of the month among classic car collectors and the September Sale was no exception, with a 1975 BMW 3.0 CSA being fought over in a two-way bidding war in the room, joined later by online bidders to push the final selling price almost £8,000 beyond its lower estimate to £29,480.

Quirky lots regularly make an appearance at Classic Car Auctions and on this occasion it was a 1979 Ford Fiesta 1300S that drew smiles of affection with only 5,693 miles on the clock but looking very sorry for itself after more than a decade in storage. But with bags of potential, the little ‘no reserve’ Fiesta drew enthusiastic bidding and eventually sold for almost a pound for every mile it had covered at £5,720.

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Audi to cut $15b to fund EVs

Audi has pledged to cut costs by over $15 billion by 2022 to help fund its shift to electric cars, Reuters reports.

The highly profitable division of Volkswagen plans to bring five new pure-electric vehicles to market, starting with an e-tron SUV, which will be produced from next year.

Last year, an all-electric Audi R8 e-tron had a brief production run of 100 vehicles, and retailed for over $1.5 million before it was pulled in October.

Reuters says that the bulk of the $15 billion cuts will come from Audi’s research and development budget.

A spokesperson for Audi declined to comment.

More plans for Audi’s development were revealed to the news outlet. The car maker plans to develop a new production platform in conjunction with Porsche, meaning both Volkswagen brands can save money by sharing components and modules.

Audi is one of European brands embroiled in ongoing allegations of widespread cheating of emissions tests, and several top executives have been investigated recently. Last month, the German transport ministry ordered a recall of around 24,000 A7 and A8 SUVs for exceeding current emissions standards.

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Redesigned A8 to tackle saloon market

The new Audi A8 saloon car premiered at the first Audi Summit held in Barcelona.

The 5.2 metre-long car, which compete against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class amd BMW 7 Series near the top of the luxury market, is a complete redesign from earlier models, with a new driving platform and interior.

Five engine options make up the A8 range, which opens with a V6 turbo petrol engine, producing 250kW of power, and a V6 diesel variant, generating 210 kW.

Two 4.0-litre eight-cylinder models are set to follow, producing 230kW and 338kW, and at the top of the range is an exclusive 6.0-litre W12 engine.

These powertrains all operate in conjunction with a belt alternate starter attached to a 48-volt electrical system, making the A8 a ‘mild hybrid electric vehicle.’ The technology enables the car to coast with the engine switched off, and to smoothly restart. 

A plug-in hybrid model is set to follow at a later date, containing a 3.0-litre engine and a powerful electric motor for a total 330kW of power and 700Nm of torque.

Autonomous driving features have been upgraded, and the A8 is the first production vehicle to have been developed specifically for highly automated driving, Audi claims.

The Audi AI traffic jam pilot can take charge of driving in slow-moving traffic of up to 60 kph, managing starting, accelerating, steering and braking, and will inform the driver when to take back control of the vehicle.

The Audi AI remote parking and remote garage pilots will steer the A8 in and out of parking spaces and garages independently, with the driver observing via a live display on their smartphone or tablet. 

These autonomous features will be rolled out step-by-step onto Audi vehicles once the technology has been fully approved,  and will need to be cleared for each individual market, Audi says.

Audi’s latest A8 offering will appear on sale in Germany in late spring 2017, with further release dates to be announced. 

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Audi accused of more emissions cheating

The German government has accusing Audi of cheating emissions tests with its top-end models. It’s the first time Audi has been accused of emissions cheating in its home country.

The German transport ministry has asked Audi to recall around 24,000 A7 and A8 models built between 2009 and 2013, around half of which were sold in Germany, Reuters reports.

A ministry spokesman told Reuters that VW CEO Matthias Mueller was summoned to the transport ministry, but didn’t elaborate.

The ministry said that recalled Audi models which were supposedly Euro-5 emission standards but in fact emitted twice the legal limit of nitrogen oxide when the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees.

The ministry has also issued a deadline of June 12 for Audi to come up with a plan to refit the affected cars. Audi issued a recall for the affected cars on Thursday, and said software updates will start in July.

An Audi source told Reuters the discrepancy in emissions is due to a faulty interaction between transmission and engine control units, and a proposal for a fix has already been submitted to the KBA.

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5-star ANCAP rating for Euro cars

Skoda Kodiaq frontal offset test

A range of European vehicles have been awarded 5-star ANCAP safety ratings – the Skoda Kodiaq, Audi Q5, MINI Countryman and the Audi Q2.

All four cars come with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard, and drivers and passenger safety scored highly in the tests, although there was some variance in results when it came to child protection.

“Depending on what the main use of your car is, sometimes it’s worth drilling down into the detail behind the rating to ensure it ticks the boxes you want it to, and for the best price, ” said AA general manager Stella Stocks.

“The Kodiaq has been assessed against the latest criteria offering a range of important safety technologies as standard including autonomous emergency braking, multi-collision braking and speed limiter,” said ANCAP Chief Executive Officer, James Goodwin.

The top rating, applicable to all 4×4 variants, comes as the SUV is due to reach the New Zealand market.

The Audi Q5 5-star rating applies to all Q5 and SQ5 model variants.

“It has an advanced autonomous emergency braking system which operates at city and highway speeds, with the added ability to detect and assist in avoiding pedestrians up to a speed of 85km/h,” Goodwin said.

The Audi Q2, launched in February, was also tested, and received a 5-star rating, which applies to all variants.

“It’s worth noting that Audi has released a higher standard safety specification version of the Q2 in New Zealand than in Australia, which may make it slightly more expensive, but better value for buyers in the long run,” said Stocks.

The New Zealand release of the Q2 contains features that are optional in Australia but standard herem including blind spot monitoring, hill launch assist, speed assistance – speed sign recognition and warning, following distance warning, reverse collision avoidance, and trailer stability control.

Finally, the new MINI Countryman, which launched in New Zealand in March, has beaten the previous model’s 4-star rating with a top grade.

“Not only has Mini improved on the structural performance of the Countryman – they’re offering the highest level of safety assist features seen from the brand with autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian detection, and a speed sign recognition and warning system,” said Goodwin.

“Consumers should be buoyed by these ratings which show brands are keeping pace with increasing safety standards.”

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Meet the car of the future

Award-winning architect Niko Kapa has designed a concept car that is turning heads.

(more…)

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Two cars set for Audi’s Q-series

Audi has announced two new Q-series models to its high-end range, with production slated to begin next year. The Audi Q8 be produced in Bratislava, Slovakia, from 2018 and the Q4 from Győr, Hungary, in 2019.

More details, including powertain options, design specifications, and pricing, will be revealed closer to the launch.

“We will integrate two completely new Q‑models into the existing production network and will thus increase our competitiveness in an extremely important segment,” Audi’s board of management member for production and logistics, Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl, says in a statement.

The Q8 will extend Audi’s range of top-end luxury vehicles and a premium SUV in a coupe style. It will sit alongside the Q7, which was first manufactured in 2005.

The second-generation Q7 is currently in production in Bratislava, with and S-version and an e-tron plug-in hybrid variants.

Audi’s second new offering, the Q4, will be the first compact utility vehicle produced, sitting between the Q3 and the Q5 in the line-up.

The Hungary plant will also assume production of the Q3 compact SUV from 2018, which is currently being manufactured in Spain.

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Three cars earn five-star ANCAP ratings

Hyundai i20

Four cars have been tested in the latest round of Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) safety ratings, with three of four receiving a five-star rating.

The Audi A5, Volvo S90 and Hyundai Ioniq hybrid all achieved the top rating. A second Hyundai model, the i20 hatch and crossover, only received four stars. This rating applies to vehicles released in New Zealand from December last year.

AA Motoring Services general manager Stella Stocks said the result will be disappointing for consumers, and the Korean brand usually has a strong track record for car safety.

“Safety standards are rising, which means car markets need to push harder to meet consumer expectations,” Stocks said.

Most new cars come with crash prevention technology such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and emergency brake assist as standard. However, none of these are available on the i20.

The Hyundai hatch scored lower marks in child occupant protection, which was rated at 73 per cent, and safety assist, rated at 64 per cent. Adult occupant protection was rated at 85 per cent.

The other three cars were lauded for their safety features by ANCAP chief executive officer James Goodwin.

“Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and reversing collision avoidance are however standard on all variants of the new hybrid model introduced by Hyundai – the Ioniq. Lane support systems and a manual speed limiter are also standard features adding to its top safety credentials,” he said. The five-star rating applies to all vehicles produced from February this year.

Goodwin added that the advanced safety technologies on the Volvo S90 “performed extremely well, with complete collision avoidance in all scenarios and at all test speeds,” but noted the knee airbag, which is standard in European models, was not found in Australasian models. Volvo S90s sold after October 2016 fall under the five-star rating.

“High scores were also achieved by the Audi A5 which is equipped with an ‘active’ bonnet and advanced AEB system which can detect and avoid collisions with pedestrians,” Goodwin concluded. The rating applies to cars produced March onwards.

Safety specifications, however, do differ between the Australasian A5 models, with adaptive cruise control and lane support systems standard for New Zealand consumers but optional in Australia.

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Police raid Audi homes, factories

German prosecutors searched two of Audi’s biggest factories and other properties on Wednesday with the ongoing emissions scandal.

The raids are the first at Audi since the scandal involving parent company Volkswagen first broke 18 months ago.

Prosecutors focused on who was involved with the use of illicit software found in 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche cars that contained 3.0-litre engines and were found to have breached U.S. emissions regulations.

“With these search orders, we aim to clarify in particular who was involved in deploying the technology concerned and in the provision of false information to third parties,” the Munich prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said the raids involved prosecutors from several jurisdictions and state police from Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Lower Saxony. VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters were searched, along with Audi’s Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm factories and six other unspecified sites.

Reuters reports that some 70 law enforcement officers also searched offices and private homes as part of the operation, although Audi CEO Rupert Stadler’s house was not among them.

The police raid occurred as Stadler was presenting Audi’s 2016 earnings. “I have all along supported efforts to clear up the diesel issue at Audi,” he told journalists, admitting recovery from the scandal would still take some time.

Audi reported a 37 drop in operating profit to $4.7 billion for 2016, with a sales return of 5.1 per cent, compared to 8.3 per cent a year earlier.

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ACCC files legal action against Audi

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed further legal action against VW subsidiary Audi, alleging the German car maker used a defeat device in its diesel vehicles to evade emissions regulations between 2011 and 2015.

The latest filing is a continuation of proceedings the consumer watchdog first launched against VW on September 1 last year.

The ACCC claims Audi “engaged in misleading conduct by representing that the vehicles complied with all applicable regulatory requirements for road vehicles in Australia when, because of the defeat software, that was not the case.”

“Audi Australia marketed the vehicles in Australia as being environmentally friendly, producing low emissions and complying with stringent European standards when this was not the case under normal driving conditions,” the report continued.

“Consumers expect that there is some relationship between the performance of the car as set out in the sales brochure and their day to day on-road use,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“We allege that the installation of software which allows the vehicle to meet testing standards but then causes the vehicles to operate differently on the road… breach the Australian consumer law.”

While Skoda-branded vehicles are also affected by the VW emissions scandal, the ACCC has decided against further action against VW, noting the lower volume of Australian sales and continuing class actions.

Audi Australia has supplied more than 12,000 affected vehicles to Australian consumers, according to the ACCC.

In December 2016, VW and Audi Australia announced a recall and software update for the affected vehicles designed to repair diesel vehicles affected by the emissions scandal.

Audi Australia told Fairfax Media the ACCC’s action didn’t provide any practical benefits to consumers. “The company believes that the best outcome for those valued customers with an affected vehicle is to have the voluntary recall service updates installed,” its spokesperson said. The company will review the ACCC’s claims and defend class-action lawsuits from private drivers.

The Audi-branded vehicles covered by these proceedings are:

A1 3 Door – 2011 to 2013
A1 Sportback – 2012 to 2015
A3 Sportback – 2011 to 2013
A4 Allroad – 2012 to 2015
A4 Avant – 2011 to 2015
A4 Sedan – 2011 to 2015
A5 Cabriolet – 2012 to 2015
A5 Coupe – 2012 to 2015
A5 Sportback – 2012 to 2015
A6 Avant – 2012 to 2015
A6 Sedan – 2011 to 2015
Q3 SUV – 2012 to 2015
Q5 SUV – 2011 to 2015
TT Coupe – 2011 to 2014

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