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VW Catches a Break, However Small

Dec. 9, 2015
VW: “Following extensive internal investigations and measurement checks, it is now clear that almost all of these model variants do correspond to the CO2 figures originally determined.”

FRANKFURT, Germany — Volkswagen was offered some respite on Wednesday from the massive emissions-cheating scandal it is currently engulfed in, when it said it had not lied about the carbon dioxide emissions of some of its cars. 

The news sent VW shares sharply higher on the Frankfurt stock exchange, even if the much wider scandal related to the pollution-cheating software installed in 11 million diesel cars worldwide is still a long way from being resolved.

VW plunged into its deepest ever crisis in September when it admitted to installing so-called defeat devices into diesel engines to skew the results of tests for nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant associated with respiratory problems.

That admission has triggered both regulatory and criminal investigations in a range of countries, including Germany, all of which are still ongoing. But in addition to this, the auto giant revealed in early November that “inconsistencies” had been uncovered on its cars’ carbon emissions as well, affecting not only diesel engines but petrol engines, too.

Carbon dioxide or CO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps heat from the sun and is blamed for man-made climate change. And tackling CO2 is becoming a rising priority in many countries, especially in Europe, where cars are often taxed according to their carbon emissions.

The two issues are completely separate and are being treated independently from each other by investigators.

Allegations Remain Unconfirmed

Nevertheless, VW appears to be off the hook on the lesser issue of carbon emissions. 

“Just a month after questions relating to the CO2 figures measured on some of the group’s models arose, Volkswagen has largely concluded the clarification of the matter,” the carmaker said in a statement. “Following extensive internal investigations and measurement checks, it is now clear that almost all of these model variants do correspond to the CO2 figures originally determined.

“This means that these vehicles can be marketed and sold without any limitations. The suspicion that the fuel consumption figures of current production vehicles had been unlawfully changed was not confirmed.”

VW said it had presented its latest findings to the government and the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). Initially, the group had said that around 800,000 vehicles were under suspicion.

But the deviations found in the figures for only nine model variants “amounted to a few grams of CO2 on average.”

And here, only around 36,000 vehicles were actually concerned.

No Consequences for Customers

The CO2 affair would therefore have no consequences for customers, VW continued.

“Customers’ real-world consumption figures do not change and neither are any technical vehicle modifications necessary,” VW said. “Against this background, the negative impact on earnings of 2.0 billion euros ($2.19 billion) that was originally expected has not been confirmed. Whether we will have a minor economic impact depends on the results of the remeasurement exercise.”

While the news was welcomed by investors and VW shares shot up nearly 5% in Frankfurt, the group is still nowhere near resolving the much wider nitrogen oxide cheating scandal.

VW is scheduled to hold a news conference of the fallout so far from that scandal on Thursday. 

The pollution-cheating scandal has hit VW hard. It lost nearly 40% in market capitalization since September, when the scandal broke.

The finances of both VW and the holding company Porsche SE, which holds a stake of 32.4% in the carmaker, are being squeezed, too. In the third quarter, VW booked its first quarterly loss in more than 15 years as it set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.35 billion) to cover the initial costs of the scandal. And Porsche, too, said the affair could have a “negative impact” on its own results. 

By Simon Morgan

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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