Wednesday 20 September 2017

Top Volkswagen executive arrested as part of US probe

Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt
Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt

Costas Pitas

The arrest of Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt caught the company's management by surprise, sales chief Juergen Stackmann said yesterday.

Volkswagen executive Schmidt, who headed the company's US regulatory compliance office in the US from 2014 to March 2015, was arrested on Saturday in Florida on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the automaker's emissions-cheating scandal, according to a source briefed on the matter.

He was due to appear in Federal Court in Miami, Florida, overnight, a spokeswoman for the United States Attorney's office in Detroit said.

"We even don't know if there is a connection (to Dieselgate)," Oliver Stackmann told Reuters on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show, adding he expects more clarity "in the coming days".

A British law firm has launched a legal action against Volkswagen that seeks thousands of pounds of compensation each for UK drivers affected by the carmaker's emissions scandal.

Meanwhile, the German company is involved in lawsuits in several countries after admitting it cheated diesel emissions tests.

Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North America, talks about the 2018 Tiguan sports utility vehicle, at the North American International Auto Show on January 9, 2017, in Detroit. Photo: AP
Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North America, talks about the 2018 Tiguan sports utility vehicle, at the North American International Auto Show on January 9, 2017, in Detroit. Photo: AP

In Britain, Europe's second-biggest vehicle market, 1.2 million cars are affected and Harcus Sinclair UK, which is being supported by Slater and Gordon, said around 10,000 drivers had already signed up to the legal action before Monday's launch.

The firm will pursue a group action at the High Court and is asking other drivers affected to come forward and join the case.

"We will argue that you received a vehicle that should never have been licensed for sale because it did not meet the required emissions standards," the firm said on its website.

"We believe that the Court will assess the difference between what you paid for your vehicle and the inherent value of what you actually received."

A spokesman for Volkswagen said the company would "robustly" defend itself in the case and reiterated it did not believe customers would lose out due to the scandal.

"We expect no decline in the residual values of the affected vehicles as a result of this issue," he said.

Last year, a Spanish court ruled in favour of a buyer of a Volkswagen car with altered emissions software, ordering two of the German firm's local units to pay a €5,000 fine to the car's owner.

But the British authorities have been accused by some consumers and lawmakers of being too slow to act for not pursuing compensation or criminal proceedings.

Volkswagen has been hit hard in Britain since the scandal erupted. Sales of VW cars are down 7.5pc in 2016 while the overall market rose. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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