Frank Witter

VW’s CFO struggles to shake Dieselgate

main 124725129 Julian Stratenschulte DPA – VW Volkswagen board members shadows CEO Matthias Mueller points CFO Frank Witter second left March 14 2017 Wolfsburg headquarters
Old sins cast long shadows. Source: Julian Stratenschulte / DPA

VW’s finance chief doesn’t mince words: “I’m not at all relaxed about the diesel issue,” Frank Witter told reporters on Monday in Wolfsburg, where the carmaker has its headquarters. “We’re nowhere near done with it,” he said, citing the lawsuits and repairs the company will have to work through, while the German market for diesel vehicles remains shaky.

US regulators revealed the emissions scandal, which affects 11 million diesel cars globally, in September 2015, and it keeps haunting the world’s largest carmaker, which also sells Audi, Skoda, Porsche and Lamborghini cars. A Dutch foundation, named Volkswagen Car Claim, proved how true Mr. Witter’s fears are. The group will file suit against Volkswagen on behalf of 120,000 European customers, Handelsblatt has learned. Unlike in Germany where plaintiffs have to file suit individually, the Netherlands’ legal rules are similar to those governing class actions in the US. Separately, a court in Stuttgart allowed a case against VW and its controlling shareholder, Porsche Automobil Hoding SE, to continue.

Mr. Witter said he expected things would calm down on the diesel front in the short term, but he warned that the company still faces long-term risks that are far more difficult to predict. One example: The additional €2.6 billion ($3.06 billion) that VW had to set aside in October for unexpected expenses in the United States, like buying back and repairing diesel cars. The manipulated vehicles emit more nitrogen oxide, a toxic gas which can cause asthma, on the road than in the laboratory thanks to illegal software installed in the engines.

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