UPDATED: Volkswagen Settles Australian ‘Dieselgate’ Class Actions, ACCC Civil Suit

UPDATE (23 September 2019): Volkswagen issued a press release saying that it has now resolved, “in-principle”, the civil suit by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against the company. Volkswagen says the terms of settlement must receive judicial confirmation at a hearing to be held in the near future, with the company not issuing any further details until that hearing. The German marque expects the proceedings to be concluded by the end of 2019.
ORIGINAL STORY (16 September 2019): Volkswagen Group says it has reached a comprehensive, in-principle settlement with plaintiffs of five class action lawsuits, subject to approval by the Federal Court of Australia. Volkswagen views the in-principle settlements as a significant step towards fully resolving the diesel lawsuits in Australia, as well as a further step towards overcoming the issue itself.

The class action lawsuits filed on behalf of Australian customers relate to approximately 100,000 Australian vehicles equipped with EA189 diesel engines. If all affected vehicles participate, each customer can expect a payment per vehicle of approximately $1400 on average.

The settlement – on a no-admissions basis – concerns five class-action lawsuits launched by law firms Maurice Blackburn and Bannister Law covering all affected vehicles in Australia. The settlement has to be confirmed by the Federal Court of Australia and a timetable has been set by the court for the necessary steps to occur. Volkswagen expects the proceedings will be concluded in 2020.

In the meantime, Volkswagen says discussions regarding an in-principle settlement of the civil suit against the company by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are close to finalisation, with a resolution between the parties expected shortly. The details are currently confidential.

RIP Ferdinand Piëch, Former Volkswagen Group Chairman,1937-2019

The former head of the Volkswagen Group has died suddenly at the age of 82, four years after resigning from the company he led to greatness, according to a statement by his wife, Ursula.

Ferdinand Karl Piëch was born on 17 April 1937, in Vienna. His father, Anton, was a lawyer, and his mother, Louise, was the daughter of Ferdinand Porsche. The third of four children, Ferdinand Piëch had two brothers and a sister.

As a young engineer, he made Porsche a brand in racing through legendary vehicles such as the 917 and the Le Mans victory. Since 1972, he brought Audi up to the next technological level with innovations such as quattro four wheel drive and the TDI turbo diesel engine, shaping Audi into a premium brand.

Heading the Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piëch advanced its pedigree by integrating Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti into the Group, while also leading the volume brands to international competitiveness through a consistent platform strategy. He also integrated the trucking businesses of Scania and MAN into the Group, laying the foundation for a globally competitive commercial vehicle supplier.

Technologically, he and his development teams have repeatedly gone beyond the limits of the feasible – from the first one-litre car in the world to the Bugatti Veyron with 1001 horsepower.

His biggest triumph was the acquisition of the Porsche brand in 2012. The takeover came with a personal twist – Piëch was able to turn the tables on his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, who had pushed the sports-car producer to bid for VW four years earlier. Piëch sided with the state of Lower Saxony, which owns a blocking stake in VW, to rebuff Porsche’s offer just as the suitor’s debt was surging from the takeover effort.

Bob Lutz, former Vice-Chairman of GM and veteran of Chrysler, Ford and BMW, summed up Piëch in this way:

“While his stubborn sense of infallibility led to one or two colossal blunders, such as the beautiful but failed VW Phaeton, a $100,000 luxury car that was doomed by its VW badge, Piëch’s strong direction and insistence on excellence made the VW Group, including Audi, SEAT, Škoda, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and others, into a global automotive powerhouse.”

Volkswagen Golf GTI To Be Auctioned For Charity

A unique Volkswagen Golf GTI is being auctioned on eBay from 8pm until 5 September, with proceeds to be donated to the Cancer Council.

The Golf GTI has been donated by Volkswagen to launch the brand’s partnership with the Cancer Council, Australia’s not-for-profit body for cancer research, prevention, advocacy and support.

The Golf was wrapped by street artist Jason Woodside, a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts.

“With one in two Australians diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, we value relationships, like this one, that provide new opportunities for our community to support our vital work,” said Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council. “We are grateful to Volkswagen for their generous support in helping drive our vision of a cancer free future.”

Volkswagen Australia Director of Customer Experience and Marketing, Jason Bradshaw, said that the company was proud and privileged to partner with the organisation that is the “leading light” in the fight against a disease that affects millions of Australians.

“Cancer Council is the only charity that covers every aspect of every cancer, from research to prevention and support services,” said Bradshaw. “It operates across Australia in the communities of each of our dealerships.

“Through a range of campaigns and events, our partnership will help Cancer Council continue their life-saving work, moving towards a vision of a cancer free future.”

On 5 October, Volkswagen dealers nationally will host Australia’s Biggest Car Wash, in which members of the public can have their vehicles cleaned and vacuumed for a $10 fee. All proceeds will go to the Cancer Council’s Transport to Treatment service.

The Golf GTI auction has a reserve price of $40,000. To bid, visit www.ebaystores.com.au/bidforgood/golf-gti.

Breaking The Formula 1 Record By The Volkswagen ID.R At Goodwood

The first electric race car to beat Formula 1: The Volkswagen ID.R has made motorsport history again by setting a new all-time record at the ‘Goodwood Festival of Speed’.

Romain Dumas completed the 1.86-kilometre track in the south of England in just 39.90 seconds. In doing so, the 500-kW (680-PS) electric race car broke the previous record, which had stood for 20 years, by 1.7 seconds. He also took victory in the Sunday Shootout.

The previous record at the famous hillclimb was set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld in a 574-KW (780-PS) McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 with a combustion engine.

Volkswagen WeShare launched In Berlin As Full-Electric Service

Volkswagen is entering the growing car sharing sector. WeShare is being launched in Berlin today. With 1,500 e-Golf vehicles, the Volkswagen brand is bringing onto the roads a 100 per cent electric fleet and all the vehicles will be operated on green power. They are to be followed by 500 additional e-up! vehicles at the beginning of next year and the first units of Volkswagen’s new full-electric ID.3 when it is introduced in mid-2020. WeShare is a “free-floating” system without rental stations and is operated digitally via an app. An expansion of WeShare, initially to Prague, together with ŠKODA, and then to Hamburg, is planned for 2020.
“With WeShare, we have tailored car sharing to meet the needs of users: easy to use with 100 per cent electric operation on green power,” said Christian Senger, Volkswagen Board Member for Digital Car & Services, today in Berlin. “With such a consistent, broad offering, we stand out from the competition. We are outstandingly well-positioned to participate in the expanding car sharing market.”

Porsche Fined €535 Million Over Diesel Cheating

German sports car manufacturer and Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche will pay a €535 million fine over diesel vehicles that emitted more harmful pollutants than allowed, according to Stuttgart prosecutors.

“The fine against Porsche AG was levied for negligence in quality control,” the investigators said. Porsche “abstained from a legal challenge” against the decision, the prosecutor’s office added.

The new penalty against Porsche is the latest in a string of fines against the Volkswagen group over its years-long “dieselgate” scandal. The company admitted in 2015 to manipulating 11 million vehicles worldwide to appear less polluting in laboratory tests than they were in real driving conditions.

Following fines against the Volkswagen brand, high-end subsidiary Audi and now Porsche, no further investigations over “administrative offences” remain open against the group, according to a spokesman. But legal proceedings against individuals, including former chief executive Martin Winterkorn, remain open.

Meanwhile, thousands of investors are suing the company for the losses they suffered on its shares when news of the scandal broke, while hundreds of thousands of drivers are also demanding compensation.

So far, the total costs of “dieselgate” for the Wolfsburg-based car giant have risen to €30 billion.

The 2019 Geneva Motor Show – What’s Hot And What’s Not

The 89th edition of the Geneva International Motor Show is being held at the Palexpo exhibition and trade centre in Le Grand-Saconnex.

This year’s show had a lot to offer, some great and some not so great vehicles, but as expected, there was a lot of electric cars.

From Audi, Fiat and Citroën to Aston Martin, a whole host of automotive brands are offering eco-friendly mobility options. From affordable, commercial cars to the more luxurious models.

Here’s a small selection:

Fiat presented an all-electric vehicle that is affordable for all. The Centoventi (One Hundred and Twenty in Italian) marks the manufacturer’s 120th anniversary and shows its vision for electric mass mobility in the near future.

Dubbed a rival to Tesla’s Model 3, Polestar’s latest car – Polestar 2 – is a fully-electric, five-door fastback coupe and comes at a lower price than the company’s previous model, while claiming to reach 100 kilometres per hour in less than five seconds.

The electric concept vehicle by Spanish manufacturer Seat (part of the Volkswagen Group) is called Minimó and was designed with city-dwellers in mind. It combines the safety and comfort of a car with the agility and easy parking of a motorcycle. It accommodates up to two passengers and features a battery-swap system that can fully recharge the car in a matter of minutes.

Citroën’s Ami One electric concept vehicle is designed to be an alternative to urban transport such as hiring an electric bike or scooter to get around a city or using public transport. The ultra-compact vehicle has a top speed of just 45 kilometres per hour, meaning that in many countries it can be operated by people as young as 16, with or without a driving licence.

Audi’s latest all-electric SUV concept will be the company’s fifth all-electric vehicle when it goes into production in 2020. The Q4 e-tron includes a specially developed exterior blue paint colour, called Solar Sky, which reflects a short-wave fraction of sunlight to reduce heat build-up in the car, meaning less energy is needed to cool the car on hot days.

Aston Martin revealed its Lagonda All-Terrain Concept – a zero-emissions SUV described as elegant yet robust, with futuristic shapes that look like they have been created by “the huge, planetary forces of gravity fields”. In line with this future-facing theme, the Lagonda also features a levitating key, which uses electromagnets to float between the front seats.

VW’s Dune Buggy Is Back… And Now It’s Electric

At the beginning of March, Volkswagen will reveal the first fully electric version of a new buggy. Taking its cues from popular American dune buggies, the concept vehicle is based on the Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) – designed to demonstrate how multifaceted the new platform truly is, according to Volkswagen.

The company says the concept of the fully electric buggy is based on the historical predecessors that found their home in California and Australia. Back then, the chassis of the Beetle served as the basis; now, the MEB platform is apparently proving to be just as flexible. This reinterpretation of a proper buggy has no fixed roof or conventional doors, while the free-standing wheels fitted with off-road tyres and open side sills dominate the overall look.

VW says the new MEB concept vehicle shows that the fully electric platform can be used for more than just large-scale series production models. Like previous Beetle chassis, the company feels MEB has the potential to facilitate the development of low-volume niche series.

The company notes that the history of recreational vehicles and its technology is a long one – from the Beetle convertible and special bodies produced by companies such as Hebmüller and Rometsch, to fully open designs of the kind embraced by the Meyers Manx buggy, the Beetle chassis allowed for creative – and sometimes exclusive – custom solutions for decades. Globally, around 250,000 individual vehicles were built as one-offs or at low volumes through to the 1980s.

The fully electric concept buggy will be revealed for the first time at the 89th International Geneva Motor Show (7 to 17 March 2019).

Will German Manufacturers And Suppliers Ally Over Autonomous Cars?

Leading German car manufacturers could join forces to advance together in the race for autonomous cars, according to German media reports.

Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, as well as suppliers Bosch and Continental are “evaluating” the possibility of an alliance to develop autonomous mobility, according to the German weekly Manager Magazin.

Earlier, the daily Handelsblatt had already held discussions between Daimler and BMW, while Bloomberg had reported preliminary talks between these two manufacturers in late 2018.

BMW, which already cooperates with Fiat and Intel, told AFP that “other companies are interested in a collaboration” around its “non-exclusive” platform for autonomous driving.

“Strategic partnerships and a large network of research and development are key success factors” because of the “substantial investment” necessary for the development of the autonomous car, explained a Volkswagen spokesman. Thus, the group “considers several projects in common with other companies in all regions of the world,” he added, refusing – like his counterpart at BMW – to specifically comment on the different press information.

Daimler, Continental and Bosch had no comment.

Last week, Volkswagen and Ford announced an alliance on vans and pickups to significantly reduce their production costs, while looking ahead to continuing discussions on a partnership in the field of electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services.

According to Manager Magazin, the discussions between Volkswagen and Ford have not resulted in a wider agreement because the boss of VW, Herbert Diess, would prefer an alliance between German companies.

These discussions come at a time when the automotive industry is racing to develop these expensive technologies that are supposed to define the modes of transport of tomorrow.

The uncertainty and the sums involved encourage alliances: for example, Honda has recently invested in General Motors’ “Cruise” subsidiary, which is focused on autonomous technologies.

Volkswagen And Ford Launch Global Alliance

Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Company announced their first formal agreements in a broad alliance that positions the companies to boost competitiveness and better serve customers in an era of rapid change in the industry.

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed that the companies intend to develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for global markets beginning as early as 2022. The alliance will drive significant scale and efficiencies and enable both companies to share investments in vehicle architectures that deliver distinct capabilities and technologies.

The companies estimate the commercial van and pickup cooperation will yield improved annual pre-tax operating results, starting in 2023.

In addition, Volkswagen and Ford have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles. Both companies have started to explore opportunities, and they have also said they were open to considering additional vehicle programmes in the future. The teams will continue working through details in the coming months.

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” said Hackett. “It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Diess added: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world. At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.”

The alliance, which does not entail cross-ownership between the two companies, will be governed by a joint committee. This committee will be led by Hackett and Diess along with including senior executives from both companies.

Ford and Volkswagen both have strong commercial van and pickup businesses around the globe, with popular nameplates such as the Ford Transit family and Ranger as well as the Volkswagen Transporter, Caddy and Amarok.

The companies’ collective light commercial vehicle volumes from 2018 totalled approximately 1.2 million units globally, which could represent the industry’s highest-volume collaboration as production scales.

Demand for both medium pickups and commercial vans is expected to grow globally in the next five years. The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Through the alliance, Ford will engineer and build medium-sized pickups for both companies which are expected to go to market as early as 2022. For both parties, Ford intends to engineer and build larger commercial vans for European customers, and Volkswagen intends to develop and build a city van.