Despite misleading German customers on a grand scale, Volkswagen has managed to avoid being fined by the Government in its home country.
The German Ministry of Transport was previously gunning for billions but now it seems it is content just ensuring VW returns all affected vehicles to a legal state after VW CEO Mathias Muller rejected compensation as it would be an excessive burden.
“We now have a situation in which Volkswagen is required to return the cars to a legally compliant condition,” German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said. “This is what is appropriate to remedy the damage that’s been done.”
In the US, VW is having to pay TDI owners up to US$10,000 in compensation as part of a US$15.3 billion settlement. German publication Bild accused asked if the lack of similar treatment makes German customers “second class”.
Green Party representative Oliver Krischer was similarly displeased with the level of justice. “It needs to be explained why companies in Germany don’t pay fines. It’s not okay that European drivers are treated worse than American VW drivers,” he said.
It is unclear exactly how VW avoided the fines, although some have suggested it may be to do with the German government having a financial stake in the car manufacturer. Fining VW would, in effect, be the same as fining itself.
Not only that, a New York Times report found that the last president of Germany, the previous chancellor and the current deputy chancellor have all had a seat on VW’s board at one time or another.
There is also the fact only 482,000 vehicles were affected in America, less than 25 per cent of the two-million VW TDIs on German roads and the 8.5-million in Europe as a whole.
VW’s official line is that if it paid all the fines it would crumble. Attorney Christopher Rother said: “Don’t put too much pressure on us, or we will go bust, and then all the jobs are gone.”
Critics say such is the close nature of the car industry and German government, some of the blame for the emissions scandal falls at the feet of public officials. Look to us, then, like VW has got off relatively lightly ─ and an electric-car heavy future will help ensure it never happens again.
VW was caught manipulating CO2 emission and fuel economy figures, which means those who bought one of its affected vehicles weren’t getting what they expected. Other manufacturers have recently been implicated for similar practices.