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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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VW – world’s largest automaker

VW group sales beats Toyota to be world’s largest automaker for 2017

Bild am Sonntag, a well-known German newspaper, has reported that Volkswagen Group’s vehicle sales rose to around 10.7 million last year, putting them ahead of Toyota to become the world’s largest automaker. 

Citing in-house Volkswagen estimates, Bild am Sonntag, reported that higher delivery figures helped drive revenue above US$265 billion, a significant achievement after last year’s record of US$260 billion. 

VW is due to publish official 2017 group sales data on Jan. 17 and will release core financial results in late February.

In 2016, the first full year after VW’s emissions test-cheating scandal, group sales rose 3.8 percent to a record 10.3 million cars, helped by a double-digit increase in China and gains in Europe.

Toyota relinquished its four-year title as the world’s top-selling automaker to Volkswagen last year. This was the first time the German company held the title. Toyota said in December that it expects to sell 10.35 million cars worldwide in 2017 across its Toyota, Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino brands, up 2 per cent from 2016, and 10.5 million in 2018.

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New Tiguan Allspace

New Zealand’s first ever 7-seater SUV, the Tiguan Allspace, will arrive in New Zealand in February this year.


The Allspace offers more space, and therefore, more comfort, making it an ideal choice for Kiwi families who are after an all-rounder.  

The Tiguan Allspace has a total length increase of 215mm compared to the current Tiguan.

Due to the generous interior spacing, the new SUV can be used in a variety of ways. Folding of the second and third row of seats increased the storage capacity up to 1,775 litres.

All Tiguan Allspace models come equipped with a towing capacity of 2,500kg, best in class in the 7-seater SUV segment.

Additional features include, lane assist, pedestrian monitoring, rear traffic alert, and other driver assistance systems.

More information on pricing and specifications will be released soon.

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VW’s strong rebound

Volkswagen has rebounded strongly since admitting their complicity in the diesel-emissions scandal two years ago. 

The German carmaker expects to produce more than 6 million vehicles by the year’s end due to recent product introductions and a strong performance by several of its key nameplates, such as the Golf, Jetta and the Passat. 

Those results only count VW vehicles and not those from family ties like Audi and Porsche – so we will have to wait and see whether the VW Group or Toyota will claim the full-year title of world’s largest automaker by sales.

VW says it’ll built a record 6 million vehicles by end of year – will the results be enough to top Toyota for world’s largest automaker?

VW says the Golf totalled nearly 1 million deliveries worldwide in 2017, bringing deliveries to date to 34 million across seven generations. The Golf hatchback lead its segment in Germany and Europe, while the wagon recorded the model’s strongest year-over-year growth at 11 per cent.

The Tiguan saw the brand’s strongest sales growth, growing 40 per cent to about 730,000 units delivered globally in 2017, with China and Germany as its largest markets. VW also said it delivered about 150,000 Tourans, its European multi-purpose vehicle. 

In coming years, the VW Group will increasingly turn its focus to developing crossovers, SUVs and electric vehicles. It plans to spend nearly $85 billion billion on EVs, autonomous vehicles and mobility services by the end of 2022. That includes $11.8 billion to develop and build electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to meet EV quotas in China.

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VW will report ‘outstanding’ results this year

Matthias Mueller, CEO Volkswagen Group has announced that VW will report excellent group results this year due to record vehicle sales and spending cuts.

VW’s vehicle sales appear to have weathered the storm caused by the 2015 emissions scandal which cost the company billions of euros in fines and tarnished their reputation.

“It will certainly be quite outstanding in operational terms,” Mueller told Germany weekly paper Welt am Sonntag when asked to sum up the 2017 business year.

Matthias Mueller, CEO Volkswagen Group has announced that VW will report excellent group results this year due to record vehicle sales and spending cuts.

Last month, the CEO predicted that group deliveries would exceed the 2016 record of 10.3 million vehicles.

Cost cuts at the core passenger-cars division have caused the world’s largest automaker to raise its profit target for the year, and it has since also upgraded its mid-term profit and sales guidance.

On the other hand, Mueller said proposals by the European Commission for progressive cuts in carmakers’ average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2025 and 2030 will “cause us real pain.”

VW more than two years ago admitted to cheating in diesel emissions tests in the United States. It has set aside about 25 billion euros ($30 billion) to cover related fines and vehicle repairs and faces thousands of lawsuits worldwide. 

A signification portion of VW’s emissions scandal penance involves investment into eco-centric technologies and developing electric vehicle infrastructure, earlier this year the German carmaker agreed to spend $800 million in California and a total of $2 billion nationwide on EV infrastructure

VW is due to publish detailed 2017 results on March 13.

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VW Exec gets seven years

Oliver Schmidt, Volkswagen AG executive, was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined US$400,000 by a judge yesterday.

Oliver Schmidt earlier this year.

He was involved in a diesel emissions scandal that cost the car maker nearly thirty billion. 

Schmidt oversaw the company’s environmental and engineering office, until February 2015, where he oversaw emissions issues.

The sentence and fine for the executive were the maximum possible under a plea deal in August.

“It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of Detroit told Schmidt in court.

“You saw this as your opportunity to shine … and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”

In March, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three felony counts under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges that it installed secret software in vehicles to elude emissions tests.

U.S. prosecutors have charged eight current and former Volkswagen executives. Six of those remain at large.

The auto industry is still feeling the effects of Volkswagen’s diesel cheating.

Regulators around the world are currently investigating other carmakers for potential violations of diesel emissions rules.

On Wednesday, German prosecutors said they had begun an initial inquiry into BMW AG, as it is speculated that the automaker is selling a vehicle that emits up to seven times the allowed levels of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

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Further probe into the VW emissions scandal

Germany’s financial watchdog, BaFin, said on Friday it was investigating whether Volkswagen illegally disclosed information about its emissions violations to third parties.

Earlier this week, a German court also ruled an independent auditor should be appointed to investigate Volkswagen’s cheating of U.S. diesel engine tests, boosting investors’ hopes for compensation.

On Friday, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Volkswagen’s CEO at that time, Martin Winterkorn, informed then Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt, on September 21, 2015 abut the extent of the carmaker’s violations.

However, VW did not make it known to the public until September 22, 2015 that around 11 million cars were fitted with emission-cheating software.

VW has declined to comment on the latest investigation, but reiterated its view that its management board “duly fulfilled” its obligations regarding capital market disclosure rules.

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Independent auditor to investigate VW scandal

A German court has appointed an independent auditor to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions scandal due to pressure from investors seeking billions of dollars in damages.

The court said in a legally binding decision on Wednesday that an auditor must be appointed and the decision cannot be appealed by the carmaker.

Shortly after “Dieselgate” broke out in September 2015, VW hired U.S. law firm Jones Day and advisory firm Deloitte to investigate the circumstances of its wrongdoing and who was responsible.

Although VW promised to improve transparency, they did not publish the findings that were used as the basis for a $4.3 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

“This is an extremely good day for the VW shareholders who have lost a lot of money in the wake of the diesel scandal,” DSW Vice President Klaus Nieding said.

“At last, light will be shed on the darkness that has shielded VW for so long.”

The auditor will examine when VW’s top management board first learned of the test cheating and whether it disclosed the possible financial damage to investors promptly.

German securities law also compels firms to publish any sensitive news in a timely fashion.

However, VW has said it believes its management complied with obligations under German disclosure rules.

 

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