German prosecutors marked the fourth anniversary of Dieselgate by smacking three current or former Volkswagen executives with charges related to the scandal and Daimler AG with a nearly $1 billion fine for its own diesel problems.
Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess, chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch and former CEO Martin Winterkorn are being hit with criminal charges for allegedly waiting to tell investors about the automaker’s rampant emissions cheating
Winterkorn and Poetsch were in charge of VW when U.S. authorities, specifically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, when almost four years ago to the day, VW’s cheating efforts involving its diesel-powered vehicles (and others produced by Audi and Porsche) were made public.
Diess had just joined the company in 2015, a few months before the scandal. However, he participated in a meeting with Winterkorn and Poetsch to determine how and when to tell shareholders about the problem with its vehicles not meeting U.S. standards and cheating to make them pass the tests.
The German automaker had masked this fact by installing software on the cars that recognized when they were being put through emissions testing. During these tests, the cars would restrict their emissions enough to comply with regulations.
But when they were back on the road, they polluted nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times more than the allowed levels. It was ultimately discovered that 11 million vehicles were affected around the world. It has cost the automaker nearly $35 billion in fines and other costs to resolve the issue.
Part of that resolution has been a major refocusing of VW’s vehicle development efforts. The company completely abandoned diesels in favor of battery electric vehicles. The first vehicle coming from those concerted efforts is the new ID.3, which sold out its initial run of 10,000 vehicles shortly after going on sale.
The ID.3 will arrive at dealers sometime next year. VW plans to have at least 30 EVs available by 2025. Porsche just introduced its new all-electric sports car, the Taycan, at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Porsche is a member of the VW family.
Daimler faced a similar issue with its Blue Tec diesels. German authorities discovered about 280,000 Mercedes C- and E-Class cars were produced with software to help get through testing of the vehicles. The EPA and CARB also found the vehicles to be noncompliant.
Ultimately Daimler recalled about 700,000 vehicles around the world last year. The company also had to recall 60,000 GLK SUVs for the same problem earlier this year, The Verge reported. The extent of Daimler’s diesel cheating is still unknown, but the U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating and a class action lawsuit in New Jersey is still going.