VW Says It's Running On All Cylinders Again

On its way to resolving the fines and penalties it will have to pay over its emission scandal and having said it’s sorry for its transgressions at the highest level, Volkswagen is looking ahead with upbeat resolve and plans to launch over 20 additional models by 2020.

“We are not letting the crisis slow us down, but are stepping on the gas — in all of our brands, and in all relevant markets,” new CEO Matthias Müller told reporters at the company’s annual financial conference in Wolfsburg, Germany. “We have good chances of again recording solid growth in our operating business in 2016,” he continued and William Boston reports for the Wall Street Journal under the headline “Bad News? What Bad News? Volkswagen Bullish Despite Emissions Costs.”

That optimism comes in the wake of an apology Müller said he delivered on Sunday to President Barack Obama during a two-minute exchange at a dinner with other industrialists hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel in nearby Hanover.



“I used the opportunity to personally apologize to him for our behavior,” Müller said. “I thanked him for the constructive cooperation with his officials. Of course, I also expressed the hope that I will be able to continue to fulfill my responsibility to 600,000 employees and their families as well as suppliers and dealers.” 

Pointing out that VW provides thousands of jobs in the U.S., the New York Times’ Jack Ewing suggests “Müller’s mention of Volkswagen workers and their families may have reflected concern that the punishment the company faces could harm those who had nothing to do with any wrongdoing. Lawyers in the case expect the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department to demand penalties that are painful for Volkswagen, but not so severe that they destroy the company.”

“Rules were broken and boundaries overstepped … it's very painful and we apologize sincerely,” Müller said at the press conference, adding “we are doing everything in our power to regain trust.”

For manipulating emissions test data on its diesel vehicles in the U.S. and Europe, VW carmaker is facing a $9 billion buy-back of its diesel vehicles, Jessica Hartogs reports for CNBC. 

“Last week, on the back of so-called ‘Dieselgate,’ the German automaker reported heavy losses for 2015, with net loss for last year at 1.582 billion euros ($1.77 billion), Hartogs writes. “Volkswagen sold 9.9 million vehicles to customers in 2015, 2% fewer than in the previous year."

Vaunted German discipline was evident during the otherwise frank exchange.

“Despite several attempts by numerous reporters, journalists, and other attendees during the Q&A, no one on the VW Board would discuss anything about the recent agreement in principle reached in late April with the U.S. regulators and interested parties,” writesForbes contributor Rebecca Lindland. “The court ordered very strict confidentiality regarding these proceedings, and VW is both adhering to the order but also now provided with an infallible excuse for providing no comments.”

But extrapolating between the “no comments,” the NYT’s Ewing writes that the €7 billion the company yesterday said it has set aside for legal costs in several companies “indicates that the company is confident that its legal costs in the United States will be much lower than the maximum.”

Meanwhile, writes Matthew Godlewski for The Hill, besides paying a significant fine, “U.S. regulators will also likely require that a large portion of the company’s penalty fund mitigation projects that offset the thousands of tons of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution emitted by the automaker’s non-compliant diesel vehicles. This part of the case is best solved through an unconventional solution — modernizing a portion of America’s long-haul transportation fleet through the deployment of heavy-duty trucks powered by the latest clean natural gas engine technology.”

Godlewski, it should be noted, is president of Natural Gas Vehicles for America.

Back at yesterday’s press conference, “executives were visibly more relaxed as they presented detailed 2015 results than when they last faced the press en masse in December, saying there were no plans to sell any group assets and they believed existing provisions were enough,” write Reuters’ Andreas Cremer and Edward Taylor.

“We are all agreed that we can make it, that we have potential ... now we have to do our homework, we have to clean up, and then we can go forward again,” said CFO Frank Witter.

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