VW cars in Europe had emissions-cheating devices

The software used in Volkswagen’s diesel cars to trick emissions testers in the US was also built into its European vehicles, according to Germany’s transport minister.

Volkswagen has admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide were fitted with the software, which conned testers into believing their vehicles met environmental standards.

Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s transport minister, said the company had confirmed the affected vehicles include cars with 1.6-litre and 2-litre diesel engines in Europe.

“We don’t yet have figures for how many of these 11 million cars that are apparently affected are in Europe,” Mr Dobrindt said. “That will be cleared up in the next few days.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Transport here said it was “keeping a watching brief on this issue and is in contact with the Department of Environment on the matter.”

In a statement it said: “Work is on-going at EU level to determine whether the European Emission Standard Testing has been affected and we await the outcome of that.”

Earlier, it was reported Volkswagen would start firing people responsible for rigging US emissions tests and shake up management tomorrow, as the German carmaker tries to get to grips with the biggest scandal in its 78-year history.

This is according to two sources familiar with the plans.

The supervisory board of Europe’s biggest car maker is meeting tomorrow to decide a successor to chief executive Martin Winterkorn, who resigned yesterday.

The sources said it would give initial findings from an internal investigation into who was responsible for programming some diesel cars to detect when they were being tested and alter the running of the engines to conceal their true emissions.

Top managers could also be replaced, even if they did not know about the deception, with US chief Michael Horn and group sales chief Christian Klingler seen as potentially vulnerable.

Volkswagen shares have plunged around 20% since US regulators said on Friday the company could face up to $18 billion in penalties for falsifying emissions tests.

The company said on Tuesday that 11 million of its cars globally were fitted with engines that had shown a “noticeable deviation” in emission levels between testing and road use.

Regulators in Europe and Asia have said they will also investigate, while Volkswagen faces criminal inquiries and lawsuits from cheated customers.

When he resigned, Winterkorn denied he knew of any wrongdoing but said the company needed a fresh start.

“There will be further personnel consequences in the next days and we are calling for those consequences,” Volkswagen board member Olaf Lies told the Bavarian broadcasting network, without elaborating.

The heads of Volkswagen’s Porsche brand, Matthias Mueller; Audi brand, Rupert Stadler; and VW brand, Herbert Diess, are seen as the front-runners to succeed Winterkorn, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

VW could pose a big threat to German economy

German economic research institute IFO has said the Volkswagen emissions scandal could have a significant impact on the reputation of Germany’s export industry for a number of months, and even into next year.

Speaking to RTÉ News IFO economist Klaus Wohlrabe said the ‘Made in Germany’ label has a “real substantial impact on German business and on the German economy”, and it is “our trademark for our flourishing export industry.”

He added: “There is a substantial probability there will be reputational damage to the German economy that will likely have an impact more in the medium term than the short term.”

Mr Wohlrabe said it could be the case that there is a negative impact on the German economy as far away as next year as a result of the VW scandal.

IFO conducts monthly economic surveys among 10,000 businesses across Germany.

The Volkswagen emissions scandal has rocked Germany’s business and political establishment and analysts warn the crisis at the car maker could develop into the biggest threat to Europe’s largest economy.

Volkswagen is the biggest of Germany’s car makers and one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 270,000 jobs in its home country and even more working for suppliers.

Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn paid the price for the scandal over rigged emissions tests when he resigned yesterday and economists are now assessing its impact on a previously healthy economy.

“All of a sudden, Volkswagen has become a bigger downside risk for the German economy than the Greek debt crisis,” ING chief economist Carsten Brzeski told Reuters.

“If Volkswagen’s sales were to plunge in North America in the coming months, this would not only have an impact on the company, but on the German economy as a whole,” he added.

Volkswagen sold nearly 600,000 cars in the US last year, around 6% of its 9.5 million global sales.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said the company could face penalties of up to $18 billion, more than its entire operating profit for last year.

Article by rte.ie