After months of whipping out its checkbook any time a phone call came into its Wolfsburg, Germany headquarters, Volkswagen AG got a welcome surprise from the German Ministry of Transport: no fines for its faulty diesels.
Bloomberg News reported the German government doesn’t plan to levy any fines, but is requiring the automaker to return the cars to a legally compliant condition,” according to Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt.
While executives may be happy, there is many in the country who are not, especially in light of the $14.7 billion settlement the company reached with the U.S. government in recent weeks.
Oliver Krischer, a member of the opposition Green party in Germany, told Bloomberg, “it’s not acceptable that the government doesn’t take any real consequences from the emissions scandal and gives a blank check for tricks and deceptions.”
Adding fuel to the fires is the fact that two of the company’s top current and former executives, Herbert Diess and Martin Winterkorn, are involved in criminal investigations in Germany regarding their conduct after being made aware of the problem.
(VW brand boss Diess not quitting despite criminal investigation. For more, Click Here.)
Despite that cloud, he said he has no intention of stepping down. “It’s not up for debate,” Diess told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The lack of a financial punishment is the result of a sympathetic government seeking to make it easier for the automaker to recover in the near term. VW sold about 8.2 million diesel-powered vehicles in Europe. If were to force the automaker into a settlement similar to the one in the U.S., VW’s payout would exceed $100 billion, according to some estimates.
(German authorities investigating role of former VW CEO Winterkorn. Click Here for the latest.)
As it is, Diess said he expects it will take up to 18 months for the automaker to recover from the hit to its image from the diesel scandal.
Obviously, anything approaching that number would force the company into bankruptcy, which would be a disaster for one of the country’s biggest employers.
(U.S. officials announce the diesel deal with VW. Click Here for more.)
While almost certainly a relief, the automaker’s current boss, Matthias Mueller seemed to have read the tea leaves correctly earlier this week when he said that VW wasn’t planning to offer financial compensation to European owners, despite calls for fines.