Volkswagen has had some negative press over the past few years, and it appears that its management is not expecting this to subside anytime soon. Its Head of Compliance and board member Hiltrud Werner has revealed that the company is still dealing with the fallout over the diesel emissions scandal that rocked its credibility and share price.
In a move to shift away from the diesel issue and face the future, Volkswagen has sought to embrace new technologies and electric vehicles, but a lot of work is still necessary before this can pay off financially.
Werner said that ongoing legal ramifications are a major reason why the diesel scandal has not yet blown over and why Volkswagen has not been able to leave the problem behind.
As the fallout has rumbled on for more than three years, it is clear that the ramifications are not as minor as Volkswagen once tried to claim and that they go a lot deeper than many in management have previously envisioned. This is also a difficult time for the diesel industry, which is trying to shake off its negative association with fossil fuel sources at a time when climate change is regularly in the news.
Werner said that Volkswagen has ‘cases in 50 countries around the world,’ which highlights the scale of its problems and why it is so keen to branch out into newer, cleaner technologies.
Volkswagen, which also produces Porsche and Audi cars, admitted back in 2015 that it had been cheating diesel emission tests to make it seem as though the cars it was selling were cleaner than they turned out to be. This was the tip of an iceberg that also engulfed other big car manufacturers. Those who relied on diesel vehicles as a big part of their sales output have struggled to reach the same heights since the news broke.
The emissions falsehood allowed software to initiate a low-emissions output despite the vehicles involved never operating in that manner while out on the road. The scandal affected 11 million Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi cars.
Having already admitted its guilt in US courts, Volkswagen has settled compensation deals with at least half a million car owners and have lost €28bn ($31bn) in the process due to financial penalties.
Werner said that the company’s problems are a long way from resolving and that there are still many more cases to settle. She added that her priorities have become ‘diesel, diesel, diesel’ as she tries to combat the fallout from a compliance perspective.
One issue that came to light from the court actions, which include claims from countries such as Australia and Brazil, is that Volkswagen has had a previous unfortunate history of other shady practices. If the company makes any more mistakes, then Werner and the rest of the board will have to contend with some very difficult decisions.
Werner believes that Volkswagen’s issues are unlikely to change in 2019 in terms of staying out of the spotlight for negative news stories. She said: ‘We will not come out of the bad news on any week. Any court case can bring new media coverage.’