Wait, what? Did Volkswagen seriously cheat in U.S. emissions tests? It sure looks like it. The shocking news is turning the automotive world upside down, and caused the German automaker’s stock to fall 20% on Monday – something that never happened in the last 78 years.
According to Reuters, Volkswagen AG used software for diesel-powered VW and Audi branded cars that deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions. The list includes the 2009-2015 VW Jetta, Beetle and Golf, the 2014-2015 Passat, and the 2009-2015 Audi A3. All of these vehicles will be recalled in the U.S.
Basically, the engines were programmed to detect when they were undergoing emissions tests and activate special control modules during those times to bypass the rules.
“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement issued over the weekend. “We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust,” he said, adding that the company has launched a probe and will work openly with authorities investigating the alleged scam.
Are Winterkorn’s days numbered? He may have survived the internal battle for top-dog status against Ferdinand Piech, but the future looks pretty uncertain right about now.
Massive fines to come
Volkswagen publicly acknowledged the facts last Friday and could face penalties of up to $18 billion in the U.S., Reuters says. Add the stock drop, suspended sales in the U.S., and tarnished brand image, and it could amount to a catastrophic, possibly unquantifiable loss for the new best-selling automaker in the world.
The German government now wants all domestic car manufacturers to disclose relevant information to see if others cheated as well. What’s more, authorities in other countries may decide to open their own investigation – not just with Volkswagen but with every automaker. In fact, while only VW has been caught cheating so far, several competitors have seen their stock plunge.
Meanwhile in Frankfurt
At the Frankfurt Auto Show, which is taking place right now, visitors polled by AFP had mixed opinions. Some were shocked and incredulous, while others said they still trust Volkswagen because they make good cars.
Remember, VW announced a plan to launch 20 new electrified vehicles by 2020. Will consumers we wary of the promises thrown at them?
Is this scandal the tip of the iceberg?