A case brought to a German labor court could end the career of Audi CEO Rupert Stadler. Testimonies place Stadler at the center of Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal. Documents presented in court describe the motive for the emission fraud: Without cheating, sales of the diesel-powered cars would have been in serious trouble. With cheating, the whole company is in serious trouble. With a little bad luck, current Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller could be implicated.
There is no shortage of expert opinions about the possible sale of GM’s European Opel arm to PSA Peugeot Citroen. Most of the experts sit at brokerages and investment banks, and their opinions usually side with their bonuses. For a sober examination by people who really understand the highly complex and often baffling auto business, let’s have a look at LMC’s analysis of the proposed acquisition of Opel by PSA. Here, you’ll find the most likely answers to the most pressing questions: What can Opel bring to Peugeot? Which plants will be shut down? What are the political frictions?
The symbolism couldn’t possibly have been thicker: Yesterday, Toyota announced that it has produced the tenmillionst hybrid car, a job that took them 20 years after it launched its first Prius in October of 1997. Today, the Chief Engineer who headed the Prius project 20 years ago, climbed the stage at the Tokyo Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, and kicked-off the start of Japanese sales of the new plug-in version of the Prius. The former Chief Engineer of course is Takeshi Uchiyamada. At a sprightly age 70, he normally serves as Chairman of Toyota. Today, he was the star of the launch event.
General Motors is in advanced talks to sell its European Opel subsidiary to France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen, Handelsblatt confirmed after Reuters broke the story. A Peugeot spokesperson told Handelsblatt that the two are in discussions “over the purchase of Opel.” A deal “could be announced within days,” sources told Reuters. The Opel business includes the Vauxhall brand.
“Who’s the liar – Piëch, or the board?” This is the headline of today’s BILD Zeitung – Europe’s largest daily – and it says what Germany wonders. Last week, a bomb set by Volkswagen’s patriarch Ferdinand Piëch exploded. Claiming that he inquired about the emission cheating half a year before the scandal broke, Volkswagen’s biggest shareholder Piëch dragged labor unions, German politicians, and his own cousin Wolfgang Porsche into the dieselgate maelstrom. “Not true!” everybody screamed. While Volkswagen leaks more than a sink at the Watergate, Europe is developing pattern baldness from excessive head-scratching, even Germany’s toughest reporters have a hard time separating fact from spy-thriller fiction.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in America for a round of talks and golf with President Trump. During the trip “Japan will explain the facts about its auto market to US President Donald Trump,” wrote Reuters. This may have become superfluous, as newspaper after newspaper has, in the run-up to the trip, explained that the Japanese auto market is one of the world’s most open. As Bloomberg wrote, U.S. made cars don’t sell well in Japan “for a simple reason: a perception of poor quality.” The Wall Street Journal put it even more succinctly: “It’s just that few people want them.” So what is there to talk about? Let’s try closed market America.
“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.”
The year has barely started, and already the race for the top of the heap of global automakers is more exciting than it ever was. As predicted by yours truly yesterday, the French-Japanese Renault-Nissan Alliance came within spitting distance of General Motors, and nearly stole GM’s long-held third place. This year, the Alliance stands every chance to become #3, which, for the first time, would leave the podium in foreign hands. And guess who sold the most EVs last year? Hint: It wasn’t Tesla.