Volkswagen AG’s legal bills continue climbing and are about to get larger as South Korean authorities announced they are preparing criminal charges against the German automaker.
South Korea’s Ministry of Environment said it plans to file criminal charges against a local Volkswagen unit in response to “insufficient” recall plans proposed by the automaker over its now-infamous defeat devices that have allowed it to skirt emissions standards in countries around the globe.
Audi Volkswagen Korea managing director Johannes Thammer will also be facing criminal charges by the ministry after it found the automaker’s Jan. 6, recall proposal did not explain how the emissions problem initially occurred or specify how it would be fixed.
Both the California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also have criticized Volkswagen in the United States for failing to come up with a satisfactory recall plan.
In the U.S., Volkswagen was forced to suspend sales of passenger cars equipped with diesel engines that had been central to the company’s efforts to build its American business.
However, Volkswagen now faces a struggle with CARB and the EPA over recalling nearly 500,000 vehicles sold with diesel engines that have failed to meet the emission requirements set by federal regulators and the state of California.
CARB said Volkswagen’s plan was unacceptable for a variety of reasons, including that it did not adequately identify the affected vehicles; did not include a sufficient method for obtaining the car owners’ names and addresses; and did not include adequate information about how the fix would affect future emissions results.
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“VW’s submissions are incomplete, substantially deficient and fall far short of meeting the legal requirements,” Annette Herbert, head of the agency’s emissions compliance, automotive regulations and science division wrote in a letter to VW executives.
The state agency also issued a separate formal notice against the German automaker, alleging it had violated the state’s clean air regulations — a finding will likely mean fines for VW.
The state agency is working to quantify the damage done by the excess nitrous oxide and particulates spewed into the air.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is also investigating VW, issued a statement saying it agreed with California regulators but was operating on a different timetable.
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Meanwhile, the management turmoil, which began with the first disclosure of the cheating scandal last fall, continues unabated.
Volkswagen Chief Executive Matthias Mueller has the backing of top players on the supervisory board, a spokesman said, dismissing rumors that support for him is crumbling due to his handling of the emissions crisis in the United States.
“The position of Mueller has never been up for discussion,” a spokesman said in response to questions from Reuters on Tuesday. “Any speculation to the contrary is without foundation and is emphatically rejected.”
He said the investigation into the emissions scandal led by U.S. law firm Jones Day had made “considerable further progress” in past weeks and VW should be able to provide a “substantial report” on the matter at the April 21 annual shareholder meeting.
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Germany’s Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper reported that doubts were growing among board members, most notably VW’s powerful labor representatives, over Mueller, who took the helm at Volkswagen last September.