Volkswagen Dieselgate update: Sales sink, but VW workers still get bonuses

March 4, 2016

In a couple of weeks, we'll enter the sixth month of Volkswagen's Dieselgate crisis. Here are a few of the top news items about the emissions-cheating scandal that have emerged during the past few days:

Volkswagen's former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, knew that the company admitted using defeat devices on 11 million "clean diesel" vehicles weeks before the story became public. Volkswagen had its moment of truth with U.S. regulators on September 3, 2015, and Winterkorn was told about it the next day. The story didn't break to the press, however, until September 18.

What's the big deal about that? Shareholders are suing Volkswagen for lost stock value, and one of their arguments is that they believe Winterkorn should've notified them of the looming scandal the moment he found out. The fact that he sat on the news for two weeks until it finally appeared in print gives plaintiffs more ammunition in their quest for damages.   

VW's presentation at the Geneva Motor Show was decidedly toned-down. Auto shows are usually places for bloviating, grandstanding, and appalling choreography. In Geneva, however, Volkswagen took a different tack, dispensing with dancers and instead giving sober presentations on automotive technology and future consumer needs. Call us crazy, but we think they could've at least found a way to work an electric slide routine into a showing of the Budd-e EV concept.

That didn't stop at least one protester from throwing a wrench into one of VW's presentations in Geneva. During a talk given by VW's Jürgen Stackmann, comedian Simon Brodkin barged onto the stage dressed as a mechanic and carrying something labeled a "Cheat Box". The Borat-style disruption didn't last long, but as you can see from the clip above, it made its intended point.

VW reported yet another sales slump in the U.S., though Audi performed moderately well. Volkswagen's February sales fell 13.2 percent from February 2015 (which, if we're honest, wasn't a great month for the company, either). VW sold just 22,321 vehicles last month in the U.S., bringing its year-to-date total to 42,400, down 13.8 percent so far. Audi, however, saw modest gains: its 11,718 sales were an improvement of 2.3 percent over February 2015.

Across the pond, however, VW's German employees are earning bonuses on 2015 revenue, while Audi workers kinda get shafted. VW hasn't yet worked out the totals, but last year, its workers took home an additional 5,900 euros ($6499). Audi employees will get a bonus, too, but it will be smaller than last year: 5,420 euros ($5966) compared to 6,540 euros ($7,199) in 2015.

Note: for purposes of clarity, "Volkswagen" has been used to refer to the Volkswagen Group parent company, while "VW" has been used to refer to the company's popular mass-market brand of automobiles.

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