Volkswagen avoids German fines

Volkswagen is set to escape fines from the German government even after cheating on emissions tests for years, reflecting a softer political stance that’s increasingly drawing ire following a generous deal for US drivers.

Germany’s influential Bild newspaper took Volkswagen to task for failing to compensate more than two million affected owners after chief executive Matthias Mueller rejected compensation in Europe as an excessive burden.

Little support is likely from the German government, with the Transport Ministry not planning to seek fines.

The regulator is instead relying on a recall to resolve customer complaints and an ongoing criminal investigation to determine whether any further measures are warranted.

“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 in Berlin.

“That is what is appropriate to remedy the damage that’s been done.”

While Volkswagen is paying affected US owners as much as $10,000 (€9,000) each as part of a $15.3bn settlement, Germany has balked at harshly punishing the manufacturer over rigging vehicles to turn on full pollution controls only during official tests.

Germany, closely tied to Volkswagen via the state of Lower Saxony’s 20% stake and the political influence of the carmaking giant, proved a low-cost fix that consists of a software upgrade and in some cases a piece of pipe with mesh on one end.

Adding on compensation could be crushing for Volkswagen as any deal in Germany would also probably apply to all 8.5 million tainted cars in Europe - 17 times the number in the US. That’s not stopping critics though.

“It’s not acceptable the government doesn’t take any real consequences from the emissions scandal and gives a blank check for tricks and deceptions,” said Oliver Krischer, a member of Germany’s Bundestag from opposition Green Party who is leading a parliamentary investigation committee.

“It needs to be explained why companies in Germany don’t pay fines. It’s also not OK that European drivers are treated worse than American VW drivers,” he said.

Instead of payments, “German customers get a letter and an appointment at the workshop to fix the cheating diesels,” Bild wrote in story published yesterday. “Are German customers second class?” 


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