With states attorneys general forming a group to press probes of its operations, the German automaker Volkswagen faced another major investigation in its backyard. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has organized an investigative panel that was to visit the besieged automaker this week. Dobrindt’s actions followed news that VW had used scamware to evade the U.S. diesel emissions program. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Friday ordered the automaker to pull back about 500,000 cars in an emissions scandal that is rocking the auto industry.
Volkswagen had employed a software engine that takes advantage of certain markers to change emissions values. VW used the markers to determine whether its diesel cars were under test. If they were being tested, the cars would pass emissions standards by a wide margin – the so-called “Clean Diesel” car. As soon as the test was over, the vehicle would revert to its standard emissions mode where it missed the emissions mark by up to 35 percent. West Virginia University researchers found the scamware when their research into the supposed clean cars showed significant discrepancies. They notified the EPA, which began a probe more than a-year-and-a-half ago. The initial probe resulted in a software patch that failed. VW began to drag its feet and stonewall regulators, a situation that continued until this summer, when, faced with a threat to its 2016 models, VW became cooperative. EPA acted after the automaker had admitted it had installed a “defeat device” to game the emissions system. It ordered the initial recall. VW said another 11 million vehicles were equipped with the same engine and emissions equipment.
Dobrindt, transport minister for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, expected to send information to the Federal Motor Transport Authority to determine whether VW had falsified emissions data in Eurozone countries. Bloomberg Financial News said Merkel, in her first comment on the emissions scandal yesterday, demanded the automaker take action.
She told a Berlin news conference yesterday that there “has to be full transparency and an effort to clarify to whole matter.” Merkel urged that all the facts be “put on the table as quickly as possible.”
The public outrage over the scandal in Germany’s premier industry by one of its top manufacturers was uniform. Typical of the comments were those of Martin Burkert, a Socialist Democrat lawmaker and member of the transport committee. Burkert, quoted in Automotive News, said that the “’Made in Germany’” trademark and the “export might of the German auto industry has been gravely damaged.” He emphasized that action was needed so “that the entire auto industry doesn’t get swept up in the scandal.”
VW has been a leader of Germany’s auto industry since World War II. Volkswagen, which means “People’s Car,” has been among those products that led the way to the country’s economic resurgence after the devastation of World War II. The auto industry, VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, is a vital part of the economy, providing 18 percent of German exports.
Meantime, U.S. state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have banded together to begin a problem of the German automaker as the auto emissions scandal has erupted.
In other developments, VW:
- Stock took another pasting yesterday, falling another 17 percent, following a 17 percent dip on Monday.
- CEO Martin Winterkorn issued another apology for the scandal, admitting the automaker “screwed up.” He was to face the board of directors at a meeting today. Some reports yesterday indicated he may be shown the gate, though VW has denied it.
- Heard a Green Party group urged the Eurozone to form an independent auto authority for the 28-member trading zone.