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.
French investigators have referred French carmaker Renault to the prosecutor for a possible indictment over abnormal emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from some of its diesel engines, Reuters reported yesterday on the basis of a government statement. According to the report, “the investigation, launched in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions test-cheating scandal, revealed on-the-road emissions from Renault and other models that were many times higher than regulatory limits.” In France, Renault professes its innocence, while in Germany, Volkswagen looks towards a Trump-led America with renewed trepidation.
R&D chief of the German premium brand Audi used to be the dream job of any engineer. Dieselgate has turned it into a suicide mission. Audi’s chief engineer Stefan Knirsch is at the end of his career only nine months after taking the job, German media reports. This would be Audi’s second R&D boss to lose his job over dieselgate. Volkswagen’s statements that the cheat was the work of a few rogue engineers, and that nobody at the top had any idea, turn into a bad joke.
Today, the EU Council of Ministers is meeting in Brussels. On the agenda: To make Europe’s law against defeat devices more toothless than it already is. At first glance, defeat devices that switch off exhaust treatment seem to be as verboten in Europe as they are in the U.S. – until you read the fine print. According to EU rules, defeat devices are allowed “if the need for the device is justified in terms of protecting the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle.” Let’s see how that works.
Both GM’s Opel and Fiat Chrysler have become the targets of serious dieselgate accusations. The companies have been in the media for months. Last week, the matter became official, and both carmakers were held accountable by German regulators. Opel met with the Germans, and most likely will get away with a stern finger-wagging, industry experts agree. Fiat stood up officials in Berlin, and the book is being thrown at the Italian maker.
“Silence” is a smaller budget movie by Martin Scorsese, to be released by the end of this year, if all goes well. The movie might be preempted by a big budget reality show with the German title “Das Schweigen.” It’s the drama of Volkswagen’s fruitless search for the dieselgate truth. Half a year since the scandal broke, very little truth was found, or so they say. What makes it so hard?
Are you easily embarrassed? In that case, a career in the automotive business is not for you. To get to the top in the heavy metal industry, you must know no shame. I came to this conclusion, when, after a week of covering daily dieselgate revelations, I read what Germany’s Spiegel Magazin will write tomorrow. The Kraftfahrtbundesamt, Germany’s NHTSA equivalent, did a retest of type-approved cars, only to find that 30 (THIRTY) of them exceed their stated CO2 emissions, some to a drastic degree, as the magazine will claim in its Saturday edition.
Yesterday, I told you that it would be Fiat Chrysler’s turn to appear in front of Germany’s dieselgate commission to discuss allegations of its own shenanigans. Well, I lied. Instead, Fiat Chrysler’s lawyers submitted a letter stating that Marchionne’s men wouldn’t come to the meeting, that they won’t cooperate with Germany’s ministerial commission, and that they will talk to Italian authorities only.
Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt was suitably miffed by the move, but there is nothing he can do, at least not at the moment.