Matthias Mueller has been named as the new Volkswagen CEO following a board meeting in Wolfsburg, replacing Martin Winterkorn who resigned over the diesel emissions scandal.
Mueller takes over VW having previously been CEO of Porsche – a role he will remain in until a replacement is found. The appointment will help steady the ship after a turbulent week for the German manufacturer.
Further board changes are likely although none announced following a marathon board meeting on Friday. German reports suggested Ulrich Hackenberg, Heinz-Jakob Neusser and Wolfgang Hatz as potential casualties with Juergen Stackmann – current head of SEAT – lined up to take over as the new sales chief at VW.
Mueller said: “My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation. Under my leadership, Volkswagen will do everything it can to develop and implement the most stringent compliance and governance standards in our industry.
“If we manage to achieve that then the Volkswagen Group with its innovative strength, its strong brands and above all its competent and highly motivated team has the opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
The full impact on the UK is still unknown but the Government announced it will retest VW cars to compare lab results with real world emissions data. It comes after Germany’s transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, said the software used to cheat the US tests is present on European Volkswagen Group cars and light commercial vehicles, too. There are a total of 2.8 million in Germany alone.
VW Group UK hq
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said he took the “unacceptable actions of VW extremely seriously” and called on the EU to conduct a continent-wide investigation into the scandal during his official statement.
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He added: “My priority is to protect the public as we go through the process of investigating what went wrong and what we can do to stop it happening again in the future. We have called on the EU to conduct a Europe wide investigation into whether there is evidence that cars here have been fitted with defeat devices.
“In the meantime we are taking robust action. The Vehicle Certification Agency, the UK regulator, is working with vehicle manufacturers to ensure that this issue is not industry wide. As part of this work they will re-run laboratory tests where necessary and compare them against real world driving emissions.”
Volkswagen Golf GTD exhaust
The engine in question is VW’s EA 189, found in most diesels cars across the range especially the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines. The VW Group have confirmed over 11 million cars worldwide are affected – and it’s currently unknown just how many cars in the UK and EU are implicated.
Other VW Group brands Skoda and SEAT have confirmed to Auto Express they have used the EA 189 engine in their cars, but were unable to comment on the presence of a ‘defeat device’.
Earlier in the week VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned following the turmoil that started with an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
His official statement said: “As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.
“This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
The VW Group has already halted the sale of some of their diesel cars in the US after the EPA concluded both Audi and VW installed software in their cars to trick emissions testers.
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In an effort to cover the cost of the scandal, the Group has set aside £4.7bn, and in a previous video statement, Winterkorn said: “I don’t have answers to all the questions at this moment. We are going to clarify the background unsparingly, and at this very moment, everything is being put on the table as quickly, thoroughly and transparently as possible.”
VW group cars
Four-cylinder type EA 189 engines found in many of the VW Group diesel cars sold worldwide were built with a sophisticated software algorithm to fool emissions tests, according to the EPA. The software detects when the vehicle is undergoing emissions tests and only then turns the full emissions controls on.
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The net result is cars that pass emissions limits under laboratory settings, but when unplugged from the testing rigs, the EPA claims they emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) up to 40 times the legal limit. In the US emissions standards are based on either federal or California requirements and each state can choose which standard to follow.
Winterkorn also said: “The irregularities with these engines contradict everything for which Volkswagen stands. We want to continue to work closely with the relevant state departments and authorities.”
Currently, US authorities claim the scandal affects over 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the States between 2008 and 2015, with the affected models including the VW Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat as well as the Audi A3. Each car that violates the US Clean Air Act faces a fine equivalent to £24,000 – meaning VW could face have to pay £12 billion in US fines alone.
Audi A3 Saloon front cornering
A VW spokesman said the Group is halting the sale of some of their diesel cars, while earlier in the week, Winterkorn apologised to the public: “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.
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“We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.”
The Volkswagen Group’s share prices have fallen nearly 20 per cent since the allegations began. However, Volkswagen have confirmed that new vehicles from the Volkswagen Group meet the latest EU diesel emissions regulations.
In the UK and Europe, all new diesel cars must meet the new Euro 6 standards where each new car sold cannot exceed 0.080g NOx per km.
Volkswagen said:”New vehicles from the VW Group with EU 6 diesel engines currently available in the European Union comply with legal requirements and environmental standards.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has issued a statement on the UK implications of the scandal:
“The UK automotive industry understands the concerns consumers may have following the actions of one manufacturer in regard to emissions testing and the subsequent decision to recall a large number of its cars. This is, however, an issue affecting just one company and there is no evidence to suggest that any other company is involved, let alone that this is an industry-wide issue.
“Consumers should be reassured that cars sold in the UK must comply with strict European laws. All cars must complete a standard emissions test, which, unlike in the US, is independently witnessed by a government-appointed independent agency.”
Our view on VW ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal
By Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler
This is one of the biggest scandals I’ve ever seen in over 25 years of reporting on the car industry. For a company like Volkswagen, which prides itself on engineering excellence, to admit to rigging emissions tests erodes trust not only among its own customers, but all car owners.
It remains to be seen whether any cars in other territories are involved, but if the company is capable of cheating emissions tests in the US, surely it could be doing it everywhere. And if Volkswagen is doing it, many assume that rivals are doing the same – after all they often share technologies and parts suppliers.
If I was a VW customer who’d invested my hard earned cash in a car that was sold to me and marketed as being environmentally friendly, I’d be very angry knowing that the information I based my buying decision on might have been falsified. And I’d probably be looking for recompense. I’m not sure that near-£5bn VW has put aside to take care of this issue will be enough. And I’ll be really interested to learn exactly how they plan to fix the problem on the 11 million cars affected.
We’ve known for many years that the tests used for creating mpg and emissions figures are ludicrously out of touch with the real world, but now we know that car makers are capable of cheating in official tests, too. This is a very bleak time for the Volkswagen Group and the car industry in general. Much work needs to be done to restore the trust of existing and potential customers – and fast.