“The hallway radio is speechless,” sighed a highly-placed Volkswagen manager when I asked him today what the hallway radio, a.k.a “Flurfunk,” as the the scuttlebutt among Volkswagen’s executives is called in Wolfsburg, thinks about a nuclear bomb dropped by VW’s patriarch supreme, Ferdinand Piëch. The spokesman for majority shareholder Porsche just dragged labor unions, German politicians, and his own cousin Wolfgang Porsche into the brutal grind of the dieselgate scandal. Today, the political impact reached Israel’s spy service Shi Bet. Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s unions are in open revolt against Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess. Volkswagen is quickly spinning out of control. Gabor Steingart, publisher of Germany’s #1 financial daily Handelsblatt already tweeted exasperatedly that “VW produces headlines with the same takt time as cars.”
Last Tuesday, shares of SHW, a maker of engine pumps and brake discs, plummeted when the company announced that a maker of fully electric cars had canceled an order of parts worth more than $100 million. Today, Californian carmaker Tesla Motors confirmed that it was behind the order, “but denied the move has anything to do with U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies,” as Germany’s Handelsblatt wrote today.
At long last, Volkswagen’s top echelon moves into the cross hairs of Germany’s until now extremely hesitant authorities. The public prosecutor in Braunschweig near Volkswagen’s hometown Wolfsburg enlarged the circle of dieselgate suspects from 21 to 37, German media reports. One of the people suspected of fraud is Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn, the prosecutor told the press the German morning.
A cornerstone of the Tesla story may be crumbling amid indications that the company’s envisioned battery price advantage could evaporate long before the company’s Gigafactory has gone into full swing. An analyst note from Morgan Stanley says that Chinese battery suppliers may cut their prices by 35%-40% in 2017, while still making a profit. On Thursday, shares of electric vehicle battery maker Samsung SDI dropped 4% on the news, while competitor LG Chem was down 1.8%. Tesla stock was unchanged in after-hours trading.
If you are looking for written proof for the involvement of Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn in the dieselgate coverup, look no further than this morning’s edition of Germany’s BILD Zeitung. Two months before the scandal became public, Volkswagen planned a highly selective disclosure strategy, the paper says in its Sunday edition. The usually well-informed mass circulation tabloid cites and shows PowerPoints from a presentation chaired by Martin Winterkorn himself. The revelation could put arrested Volkswagen manager Oliver Schmidt in U.S. jail for many years, and it could cost Volkswagen another $10 bln.
Tis the season when “global sales crowns” are passed-out to automakers. The OEMs usually suffer the coronation without comment. Officially, they don’t care about the ranking. Or so they claim. Hence, you won’t hear them complain when the crowns are passed out to the wrong automaker, as it happened in the past. To avoid repeated offenses, here a short primer on car counting. This year, two carmakers, Toyota and Volkswagen, are in extremely tight contention, and with an impending photo-finish, exacting work has become more important than ever.
Volkswagen delivered 10.3 million vehicles worldwide in 2016, the company said today in an emailed statement. With that, it most likely missed its hallowed target of becoming World’s Largest Automaker by the thinnest of hairs. VW’s pet enemy Toyota, world’s number one automaker since Japan recovered from the Tohoku earthquake, will announce its 2016 data by the end of the month. However, the company told me on December 15, 2016 that it plans to produce 10.366 million units in 2016, and Toyota rarely misses these estimates, especially not when it knows how many cars it will crank out in the next two weeks.
“VW bosses live dangerously,” was the headline in Germany’s BILD tabloid (German – paywall) after the FBI arrested Volkswagen manager Oliver Schmidt over the weekend during a trip to Florida. The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling an array of witnesses against Volkswagen while the company is trying to close a deal to make a criminal case go away before Donald Trump comes in.
In the complaint against Schmidt, it is alleged that Volkswagen orchestrated a massive cover-up of its use of illegal defeat devices to cheat on vehicle emissions tests. Sure, this has been insinuated before, but now, the FBI is saying it. Dangerously for VW bosses, the FBI’s writ officially implicates other Volkswagen managers in the cover-up, which should impact their travel plans.