This Chart Shows How Deeply U.S. and German Inquiries Have Hurt Volkswagen
Dual inquiries in the United States and Germany are taking a steep toll on Volkswagen's value.
Volkswagen, the German carmaker that admitted in September as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide, including about 480,000 in the United States, have software that altered how they worked when undergoing diesel emissions tests, faced dual inquiries Thursday. Both show that the self-inflicted scandal -- the iconic German carmaker has admitted it knew about the cheat since 2014 -- is far from finished. And both are already inflicting a steep financial toll on the company.
Volkswagen, the German carmaker that admitted in September as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide, including about 480,000 in the United States, have software that altered how they worked when undergoing diesel emissions tests, faced dual inquiries Thursday. Both show that the self-inflicted scandal — the iconic German carmaker has admitted it knew about the cheat since 2014 — is far from finished. And both are already inflicting a steep financial toll on the company.
Almost three weeks after the company admitted wrongdoing, and as investigations in Congress and in Germany begin, the carnage from the scandal is becoming more clear. It’s already claimed the scalp of its long-time chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned after the news of the cheat broke. And it continues to take a toll on the company’s stock, which, as the chart below shows, is down dramatically since its high of 255.20 in mid-March.
The letting in Volkswagen’s value comes as House lawmakers on Thursday grilled Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s top official in the United States, whose apology was not enough to placate angry representatives. In Germany, prosecutors in Braunschweig, close to the company’s home in Wolfsburg, raided Volkswagen’s headquarters to “secure documents and data storage devices” that could help determine how the carmaker pulled off the emissions scam.
In Washington, Horn admitted to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that hundreds of thousands of the affected vehicles might have to wait a year before the company could fix them. He also blamed the entire affair on three company engineers he refused to identify. According to the Wall Street Journal, they are Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s chief engineer (Audi is a Volkswagen subsidiary); Heinz-Jakob Neusser, chief of development at the Volkswagen brand; and Wolfgang Hatz, who develops race car engines.
“Do you really believe as good, as well run as Volkswagen has always been reputed to be, that senior-level corporate managers and administrators had no knowledge for years and years?” asked Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).
“I agree, it’s very hard to believe,” Horn responded.
Barton then threatened a penalty that “should be more than a slap on the wrist.”
The raid on Volkswagen’s headquarters is the start of an anticipated criminal probe by German authorities. Volkswagen admitted the flaw following a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation. France and Italy have also launched investigations into the car company’s actions.
Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
David Francis was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2014-2017.
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