Volkswagen Dieselgate update: Germany shifts to EVs, VW's 2006 PowerPoint on emissions cheats, more

May 6, 2016

All's been relatively quiet in Wolfsburg as of late--at least since Volkswagen submitted plans for fixing and/or buying back 482,000 2.0-liter Audi and VW diesels in the U.S. (As for larger, 3.0-liter diesels from Audi, Porsche, and VW, we're still waiting on a revised proposal, since the first one went down in flames.) 

That said, there have been a few interesting blips on the Volkswagen radar over the past week or so. Here are a few Dieselgate-related stories you may have missed. 

1. Germany is betting big on electric vehicles: Volkswagen and several other automakers who do business in Europe recently funded a report proving that diesel and biodiesel vehicles are more important to reducing emissions than electric cars. That report was published last week, but unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the announcement that Germany will invest 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in subsidies for electric vehicles. Perhaps when Volkswagen said it was putting more emphasis on EVs, Germany took the company at its word.

2. Volkswagen had a PowerPoint on emissions cheats in 2006: In January, reports emerged that Volkswagen employees knew that the company was rigging diesel engines to cheat on emissions tests way back in 2006. Now, it appears that some workers may have learned about Volkswagen's illegal endeavors from a very dark source, indeed: a PowerPoint presentation.

That document was uncovered during the company's internal investigation, and news of it was subsequently leaked to the media. According to the New York Times, the presentation underscores the fact that "people inside Volkswagen were aware that its diesel engines were polluting significantly more than allowed. Yet company executives repeatedly rejected proposals to improve the emissions equipment..."

3. VW's U.S. sales fall for the sixth month in a row: The mass-market brand's April 2016 sales came in 9.7 percent below April 2015, at 27,112 vehicles. Year-to-date sales are off 11.7 percent compared to the first four months of last year. That's far below most other automakers, who are up 3.4 percent for the year, on average. (Interestingly, Audi and Porsche sales are rising, up 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, compared to 2015.)

4. VW execs see huge growth potential in the U.S.: VW's brand head, Herbert Diess, recently told reporters, "We believe that the USA has in fact the greatest potential for Volkswagen worldwide in the next decade." And given the sales slump the company is in these days, he's probably right in thinking that the only way to go is up.

To achieve growth, though, VW will have to make it through the Dieselgate scandal intact, launch a massive re-branding campaign, dramatically improve relations with current VW owners, and improve its car-heavy lineup to appeal to Americans. Sounds doable, no?

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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