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EU regulators raid auto giant BMW in German cartel case

The bloc's anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. The EU, in its statement, said that the inspection related to the Commission concerns that several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices. "Inspections are a preliminary step in investigations of suspected anti-competitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out inspections does not mean that the inspected companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself," the Commission added. A group of leading German carmakers including Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Daimler stand accused of holding illicit meetings since the 1990s to coordinate vehicle technology, cost, suppliers, markets and strategy. Daimler comes clean In July, German media reported that the cartel's secret working groups hashed out and decided the most important details of the auto business, including the inadequate size of the AdBlue tanks that could not adequately feed their diesel cars' exhaust treatment. One of the aims of the cartel was to avoid "an arms race" of AdBlue tank sizes. Meanwhile, the cartel case has turned into a race for who rats out whom first. Luxury carmaker Daimler on Friday confirmed it had applied for the status of principal witness in the EU probe. Daimler chief financial officer (CFO) Bodo Uebber told journalists that the application "principally concerns coordination in breach of anti-trust legislation which was discussed in the press a while ago." As it was yet unclear whether the EU opened an official investigation into the carmaker, Daimler saw "no need presently to make financial provisions for any possible fines," Uebber added. Rat-out-race According to German media reports, Volkswagen had also attempted to apply for the principal witness status. But Daimler was first in coming clean with Germany's and Europe's cartel watchdogs, and it could avoid a multi-billion euro fine. Volkswagen's voluntary declaration is dated July 4, 2016, but Daimler's came significantly earlier. Still, Volkswagen could get a rebate on the punishment. BMW, one of the least suspicious in diesel emissions fixing, is kept holding the bag. BMW has said from the outset that there is nothing unusual in working with other carmakers on certain components if they "do not contribute to differentiation of the two brands and are therefore not relevant to competition." According to EU law, the first co-operating co-conspirator in an anti-trust matter could walk away unpunished. The second one to break the silence would get a maximum 50 percent rebate, but only if "evidence with considerable value-add" will be delivered.

The bloc’s anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. ... Read More »

Australia sues Audi, ignores Skoda

Australia's consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany's Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker's emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country's Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission levels in their cars. The watchdog said legal action was leveled at local subsidiary Audi Australia as well as Audi's German owner, Volkswagen. The ACCC alleged that between 2011 and 2015 Audi had "engaged in misleading conduct by not disclosing the existence and operation of defeat devices in certain Audi-branded vehicles." Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the software used to manipulate emissions tests in the laboratory breached Australian consumer law. Skoda off the hook Roughly 12,000 Audi cars would be affected by the current proceedings, the ACCC reported. By contrast, Volkswagen's Skoda cars would not be affected as the commission decided not to pursue the matter due to the low volume of Skoda car sales in Australia. The watchdog is seeking pecuniary penalties and corrective advertising. The latest action followed court proceedings launched against Volkswagen-branded cars last year. In that lawsuit, the commission claimed that more than 57,000 vehicles sold in Australia did not operate as Volkswagen advertised. Since then, Volkswagen and Audi have announced voluntary recalls to update the software in question.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany’s Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker’s emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country’s Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission ... Read More »

VW taken to court in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland

Three US states have accused Volkswagen and its affiliates of cheating on diesel emissions. The suits accuse the German automakers of defrauding customers, misleading regulators and seeking to cover up the deception. New York, Massachusetts and Maryland charge that employees of Volkswagen and affiliated companies knew that the world's No. 2 automaker equipped vehicles with software to cheat emissions testing. The suits allege that VW submitted false emissions data to regulators and sought to eliminate evidence when an investigation began. The actions make allegations about the involvement of VW engineers and executives. "These suits should serve as a siren in every corporate boardroom that if any company engages in this type of calculated and systematic illegality, we will bring the full force of the law - and seek the stiffest possible sanctions - to protect our citizens," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. The officials charge that VW issued "sham" recall notices to owners and dealers to "turn down" software. About 25,000 cars were affected in New York, 15,000 in Massachusetts and nearly 13,000 in Maryland. The automaker and its affiliates sold 600,000 such cars US-wide. 'A dirty cover-up' Schneidermann made the announcement in New York City Tuesday, next to Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts. Officials from Maryland announced their action separately. "This 'clean diesel' was nothing more than a dirty cover-up," Healey said late Tuesday. According to the suit, Martin Winterkorn, the CEO when the scandal broke, and his successor, Martin Müller, an Audi executive at the time, knew of the devices by spring 2014. The suit alleges that they "had ample notice of the existence of unlawful, illegal devices and did nothing to prevent both Audi and Volkswagen from repeatedly deceiving regulators, and the American public, for another 17 months." The prosecutors said consumers believed they would get "green diesel" cars but the vehicles illegally emitted pollutants linked to respiratory disease. The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency haven't reached a deal with VW on fines as part of a separate settlement that could bring in an outside monitor to oversee compliance. VW also faces a Justice Department criminal investigation. Since the scandal came to light, VW has agreed to buy back or modify vehicles, create an environmental trust worth $2.7 billion ($2.5 billion euros) and invest $2 billion into zero-emission vehicles. In all, the company agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle lawsuits over the cheating. However, Schneiderman and Healey said that the settlement did not resolve claims regarding violating state environmental laws and did not cover all the affected vehicles.

Three US states have accused Volkswagen and its affiliates of cheating on diesel emissions. The suits accuse the German automakers of defrauding customers, misleading regulators and seeking to cover up the deception. New York, Massachusetts and Maryland charge that employees of Volkswagen and affiliated companies knew that the world’s No. 2 automaker equipped vehicles with software to cheat emissions testing. ... Read More »

Volkswagen bets on e-cars, self-driving vehicles

Volkswagen unveiled a plan for the next decade containing culture change, as it strives to compete in an industry moving towards e-cars, self-driving systems and on-demand mobility - all while it deals with Dieselgate. The implementation of the plan, dubbed the "Together Strategy 2025," will see "double-digit billion investments," according to VW CEO Matthias Müller at a press conference at the company’s headquarters in the German town of Wolfsburg. Müller admitted to the company having had its "major weaknesses exposed" in the wake of the "shake-up" from the scandal about it having fitted 11 million of its diesel cars with emissions test cheating software. "The catchwords here are structure, culture, efficiency," said Müller. Later, he said "the current crisis is a catalyst for us. Readiness for change has grown considerably." The famously autocratic management style of Müller's predecessor Martin Winterkorn is considered by many to have been one of the factors that led to the cheating. VW engineers and technical staff found themselves under pressure to push the carmaker all the way to the top of the industry. This time, Müller has announced an effort to "establish a culture that is open and value-driven." Apart from changing its corporate culture, Müller is also seeking a "massive transformation" of VW's core business of developing and building vehicles, based on driving forward innovation - some of it outsourced. "We will harness outside impetus by relying on acquisitions on venture capital investments in the future," said Müller. "We no longer have the illusion we can do everything better or by ourselves. For an engineering-driven company such as ours, that's a paradigm shift." E-cars, driverless cars Volkswagen announced that it would launch more than 30 battery-powered electric vehicles over the next 10 years, and that it was anticipating sales of 2 to 3 million e-cars by 2025 - or around 20 to 25 percent of total sales volume. Müller said battery technology would have to be among its core competencies if that's going to be become a reality. At the moment, e-car manufacturers rely heavily on external battery producers. And fully autonomous cars with self-driving systems also figure prominently in VW's unveiled strategy, with VW's own in-house developed model targeted for a market launch in 2021, helped along by 1,000 additional software specialists to be added to the carmaker's workforce. "We are making autonomous driving and AI core technologies of the VW Group," said Müller. The move comes as competition heats up from tech companies crossing over into the auto industry, such as Google and Apple. Ride-hailing The carmaker is also seeking greater relevance in mobility services solutions, setting up a specialized business unit to be headquartered in Berlin. First inroads into the mobility services business were made via its $300 million (267 million euro) investment in ride-hailing app Uber's rival Gett. Müller called it the nucleus of VW’s expansion in the area, aimed at bringing in multibillion-euro revenues by 2025. "The cars will have to come from somewhere, and they will have to come from us. We are working on setting up strategic networks that depend on us," said Müller. "The first step has been taken with Gett, as far as ride-hailing is concerned, we have bet on the right horse." Volkswagen is targeting a 7 to 8-percent profit growth by 2025, which Müller called "appropriate, ambitious, and at the same time realistic." The payout to shareholders is to be maintained at around 30 percent of net profit, he said. In April, VW posted its first annual loss in more than two decades for 2015, after setting aside over 16 billion euros to cover potential costs relating to the emissions scandal. In the first quarter of this year, the 12-brand group saw net profit slump 20 percent to 2.31 billion euros.

Volkswagen unveiled a plan for the next decade containing culture change, as it strives to compete in an industry moving towards e-cars, self-driving systems and on-demand mobility – all while it deals with Dieselgate. The implementation of the plan, dubbed the “Together Strategy 2025,” will see “double-digit billion investments,” according to VW CEO Matthias Müller at a press conference at ... Read More »

Volkswagen’s US boss Michael Horn resigns

The German carmaker's top boss in the US has stepped down almost six months after the firm became embroiled in an emissions cheating scandal. Michael Horn said he was leaving Volkswagen to "pursue other opportunities." Volkswagen announced on Wednesday that Horn would leave "effective immediately" by mutual agreement with the company. "I want personally to say 'thank you' to Michael Horn for the great work he has done for the brand and with the dealers in the United States," said Herbert Diess, chief executive of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, in a company statement. Horn became CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America in January 2014. He was in charge last September when the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a public notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to VW. The firm was accused of installing defeat devices and software in at least 11 million vehicles worldwide, many in the United States. Horn himself made the headlines, saying - while at a car launch event - that the company had "totally screwed up." The company's statement announcing Horn's resignation said merely that the 54-year-old was leaving "to pursue other opportunities." The firm faces major litigation in the United States, with the strong possibility that it will have to pay billions of dollars in penalties. Horn was sent to apologize to consumers at a congressional hearing in October, when he told lawmakers that top executives had no knowledge of the cheating software. "To my understanding this was not a corporate decision, this was something individuals did," Horn said, adding that he felt personally deceived. In its statement, VW said the group's North American regional head, Hinrich J. Woebcken, would be taking over at the helm on an interim basis.

The German carmaker’s top boss in the US has stepped down almost six months after the firm became embroiled in an emissions cheating scandal. Michael Horn said he was leaving Volkswagen to “pursue other opportunities.” Volkswagen announced on Wednesday that Horn would leave “effective immediately” by mutual agreement with the company. “I want personally to say ‘thank you’ to Michael ... Read More »

VW chief Müller in US apologizes for emissions cheating scandal

Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller has apologized in a US visit for cheating on diesel car emissions tests. Müller has pledged new investment in the US. On his first official visit to the US following the emission test scandal, Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller took the first steps to repair the damage from the fallout. "We know we deeply disappointed our customers, the responsible government bodies, and the general public here in America," said Müller at a media reception on the eve of the Detroit auto show. "I apologize for what went wrong at Volkswagen," he added, and promised that the auto giant was "fully committed to making things right." At the reception, Müller also announced that Volkswagen plans to make a new mid-size SUV and would thus invest $900 million in the United States. He noted that the investment at VW's Chattanooga plant will create approximately 2,000 jobs. Volkswagen had admitted that it installed software in roughly 11 million diesel cars of its VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda brands worldwide that helped them evade emissions standards. The software also known as “defeat devices” turn on pollution controls when the car is undergoing testing, and off when it is back on the road, thus allowing it to spew out harmful levels of nitrogen oxide. The scandal has damaged Volkswagen's reputation and a number of investigations have begun in several countries around the world. VW has not disclosed Müller's schedule while he is in the US, but the US Environmental Protection Agency has said he is scheduled to meet with its administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday.

Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller has apologized in a US visit for cheating on diesel car emissions tests. Müller has pledged new investment in the US. On his first official visit to the US following the emission test scandal, Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller took the first steps to repair the damage from the fallout. “We know we deeply disappointed our customers, ... Read More »

Ex-VW head Winterkorn resigns from Porsche Holding

Martin Winterkorn, who already stepped down as CEO of VW, has relinquished his position at its largest shareholder. He will be replaced by Hans Dieter Poetsch in November. Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn announced on Saturday that he was resigning from his position as chair of Porsche Holding Company. The embattled ex-CEO had already stepped down from VW at the end of September following revelations that the firm had cheated on emissions tests. Replacing the 68-year-old Winterkorn on November 1 will be Hans Dieter Poetsch, who is the new chairman of VW's supervisory board, in which Porsche Holding has the largest stake. On September 18, the US Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of having installed software on some of its vehicles that enabled them to circumvent air pollution standards, tarnishing the company's sterling reputation and embroiling it a scandal whose reverberations are still being felt. It was soon discovered that about 11 million vehicles had been affected worldwide. Potential fallout for employees On Saturday, VW's works council, the representative body for employees, told German news agency DPA that the firm would likely be forced to cut back on contracted workers as financial uncertainty loomed. "As the works council, we will support all possibilities to secure the jobs of our colleagues with temporary contracts," said a council spokesman. "We know that the board of directors is discussing other possibilities." Volkswagen employs around 600,000 workers globally, thousands of them on temporary contracts, according to the most recent figures.

Martin Winterkorn, who already stepped down as CEO of VW, has relinquished his position at its largest shareholder. He will be replaced by Hans Dieter Poetsch in November. Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn announced on Saturday that he was resigning from his position as chair of Porsche Holding Company. The embattled ex-CEO had already stepped down from VW at the ... Read More »

Scandal to screen: DiCaprio linked to possible Volkswagen film

The ongoing Volkswagen scandal may make it to the big screen. A US movie studio and actor Leonardo DiCaprio's production company have acquired movie rights to a book proposal on the German carmaker's emissions cheating. It hasn't even been a month - but in Hollywood, time is money. On September 18, environmental regulators in the United States accused German auto industry giant Volkswagen of intentionally cheating on vehicle emissions tests. What followed was a scandal of epic proportions which led to the resignation of VW chief Martin Winterkorn, tumbling stock prices and a potential legal minefield. But could it be a blockbuster? Movie studio Paramount Pictures and Appian Way - the production company belonging to American actor Leonardo DiCaprio - have bought the film rights to a book proposal from "New York Times" journalist Jack Ewing about the ongoing debacle. Ewing's as-yet untitled book was expected to explore how Volkswagen's internal ethos fueled the massive fraud which has affected some 11 million vehicles worldwide. DiCaprio is no stranger to tackling such based-on-a-true-story issues. He was the producer and star of "The Wolf of Wall Street" which focused on investor fraud, and is one of Hollywood's most outspoken advocates on environmental issues . The repercussions from the cheating revelations continued on Monday. International credit rating agency Standard & Poor's cut the automaker's long-term debt rating and the European Investment Bank announced it could potentially demand billions in loans back from Volkswagen.

The ongoing Volkswagen scandal may make it to the big screen. A US movie studio and actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company have acquired movie rights to a book proposal on the German carmaker’s emissions cheating. It hasn’t even been a month – but in Hollywood, time is money. On September 18, environmental regulators in the United States accused German auto ... Read More »

Majority of VW’s rigged cars in Europe

German carmaker Volkswagen has said the overwhelming majority of its roughly 11 million cars with built-in defeat devices were sold across Europe. The company again apologized for the "wrongdoing of individuals." A Volkswagen spokesman on Monday reported that 8 million of the company's vehicles running in the EU were fitted with software capable of thwarting diesel-engine emission tests. In a letter co-signed by the current VW chief lobbyist Thomas Steg and cited by the German business daily "Handelsblatt," the carmaker said 1.2, 1.6 and 2.0-liter engines were affected. The authors of the letter addressed to national parliamentarians once again apologized for the behavior of "some individuals" and promised to fully clear up the scandal. No time to waste VW has been under mounting pressure to get to grips with the biggest business crisis in its 78-year history as revelations about its large-scale emissions cheating scandal have wiped out a third of the firm's stock price and rocked the auto industry as a whole. Up until now, VW had said it would have to refit up to 11 million diesel cars globally, including 2.8 million in Germany . Newly appointed Chief Executive Matthias Müller is to address employees at a staff meeting in Wolfsburg Tuesday. One day later, he's scheduled to brief the supervisory board on what measures have been taken so far to find the culprits and win back the trust of customers.

German carmaker Volkswagen has said the overwhelming majority of its roughly 11 million cars with built-in defeat devices were sold across Europe. The company again apologized for the “wrongdoing of individuals.” A Volkswagen spokesman on Monday reported that 8 million of the company’s vehicles running in the EU were fitted with software capable of thwarting diesel-engine emission tests. In a ... Read More »

Reports: Porsche CEO to become new VW chief

The supervisory board of German carmaker Volkswagen is to pick Porsche chief Matthias Müller as its next CEO, media reports say. He's to replace Martin Winterkorn, who resigned over a falsified emission tests scandal. The head of sports carmaker Porsche, Matthias Müller, would be appointed as Volkswagen's new chief executive on Friday, Reuters and the German business daily "Handelsblatt" reported, citing "sources familiar with the matter." "Bloomberg" also carried a similar report earlier on Thursday. Müller would replace Martin Winterkorn , who resigned on Wednesday in the wake of a huge scandal over manipulated emissions tests in the US and elsewhere, affecting some 11 million vehicles. Reuters reported VW's supervisory board would offcially present the new man at the helm after a meeting on Friday. Tall order Müller is the VW Group's former head product strategist and earned more laurels while being in charge of Porsche. The 62-year-old had been seen as the main favorite for replacing Winterkorn. Born in Chemnitz in East Germany, he originally trained as a tool maker and then graduated in information technology. He'll be facing the daunting task of fully clearing up the company's current scandal and regaining the trust of consumers worldwide.

The supervisory board of German carmaker Volkswagen is to pick Porsche chief Matthias Müller as its next CEO, media reports say. He’s to replace Martin Winterkorn, who resigned over a falsified emission tests scandal. The head of sports carmaker Porsche, Matthias Müller, would be appointed as Volkswagen’s new chief executive on Friday, Reuters and the German business daily “Handelsblatt” reported, ... Read More »

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