17 January 2020
Prosecutors in Germany have charged six Volkswagen Group (VW) managers with fraud as the Dieselgate scandal refuses to go quietly.
The executives, who have not been named, have been charged with ‘deliberately misleading’ authorities and customers in the time before the diesel scandal broke, by failing to disclose the existence of cheat devices. These were discovered on vehicles undergoing tests in the US, although the company has recalled thousands of vehicles globally to remove the technology.
In an 876-page indictment, three executives are accused of having “knowingly and willingly participated in the development, refinement and improvement of manipulation software”. Three others “aided and abetted” those acts.
The charges are similar to those levelled against former VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other employees last year.
In a statement, public prosecutors in Braunschweig, close to VW’s headquarters, said that there were nine million vehicles illegally registered for road use in the years before the Dieselgate affair was made public. Vehicles in Germany were also wrongly exempted from road tax, the prosecutors claimed.
VW said the carmaker would not comment on investigations against individuals.
The carmaker is attempting to move on from the Dieselgate scandal and is focusing on growing its electric vehicle (EV) share, with the launch of its first mass-market model, the I.D 3. However, while it works hard to promote itself as a clean and ethical company, with plans also including moving to a carbon-neutral production model, external factors keep hampering these efforts.
Volkswagen was fined a total of €1.2 billion by German prosecutors in 2018, considerably smaller than the total $30 billion (€25.8 billion) that was levied on the German manufacturer by US Government authorities, who found the company guilty of emissions fixing.
Early last year, a Prague district council granted a number of Czech drivers of Skoda and Volkswagen vehicles compensation amounting to 533 million Czech Koruna (€20.8 million) concerning the scandal. In one of the UK’s biggest class-action lawsuits, a court said Volkswagen Group engaged in an ‘obvious cheat’ when it allegedly fitted emissions-cheating devices to vehicles. The case is representing over 90,000 drivers in the country.
Another class-action lawsuit is pending in Germany, although this is currently being held up by paperwork. The Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) had been expecting around 33,750 claims from disgruntled drivers of VW cars affected by the emissions cheating debacle in 2015. However, it has been inundated with almost half a million claims.
The scandal is not just related to VW; however, with Daimler also paying out over the fitting of cheat devices. The carmaker is facing a lawsuit from its own investors over the situation, with those involved citing a drop in the share price, due to the company’s denial of wrongdoing, as impacting their funding.