VOLKSWAGEN has finally pinned a number on what the Dieselgate scandal has cost it over the last 12 months, writing off a A$25 billion black hole in its accounts to the scandal.
The carmaker last night faced angry shareholders at its first annual general meeting since the scandal broke almost a year ago, with chief executive Matthias Mueller again apologising to investors after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in more than 11 million vehicles sold worldwide, including almost 100,000 in Australia.
"This behaviour contradicts everything Volkswagen stands for. It has damaged our most valuable asset: the trust people place in our company and our products,” Mueller said.
“On behalf of the Volkswagen Group – and everyone who works here – I would like to apologise to you, our shareholders, that the trust you, too, placed in Volkswagen has been disappointed.
“What's done cannot be undone. But what does lie in our power is ensuring we act in a responsible manner,” he said.
Volkswagen Group had delayed its annual general meeting, usually held in January, to properly assess how the Dieselgate scandal would hurt its traditionally secure financial position, and to work out a solution to fix both the cars and the damage to its reputation.
The scandal has pushed VW Group to post a A$2.5 billion loss for the 2015 calendar year – its first in a decade.
Taking a leaf out of the book of the once-bankrupt GM, VW has used the scandal to reinvent itself, saying it now wants to become a world leader in electrification and “mobility solutions”, flagging an era where people will share rather than own cars.
Mueller has also cast doubt over whether Volkswagen will keep investing in diesel engines, telling a German newspaper it consider abandoning the technology.
"We have to ask ourselves whether... we want to spend more money on… development of diesel," he told Handelsblatt.
The first vehicle to give a clue to any potential move away from diesel is likely to be the Škoda Kodiaq, an all-new seven-seat SUV due on sale in Australia in the next 12 months.
Asked yesterday if the Kodiaq would sell here with a diesel engine, Škoda Australia managing director Michael Irmer said it was too early to speculate on drivetrain choices.
“But Toyota does the Kluger with a petrol engine,” he said.