When I read the constant stream of scandalous Volkswagen news, I can’t help but sing Uh oh, we’re in trouble, something’s (the EPA’s findings) come along and it’s burst our bubble (of toxic emissions), yeah yeah in my head. Actually, I bet Matthias Müller would rock that on karaoke at the VW Christmas party.
All jokes aside though, VW are in trouble. With each week passing, a new piece of information is exposed and the brand falls deeper into the hole they’ve reluctantly dug themselves. In September the emissions scandal first became public; CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned five days later, unwillingly; it’s revealed that 11 million vehicles worldwide are affected; Müller and others say the scandal is “the fault of a few employees”; the company post their first quarterly loss in fifteen years; and in early November came the revelation that the CO2 emissions and fuel economy numbers on certain models had been ‘understated’.
So how do the German carmakers plan to rectify their lies? With a gift card. No, sorry, with two gift cards.
VW are attempting to ‘compensate’ U.S owners of affected vehicles with two $500 gift cards. One to be spent wherever they choose and the other to be spent in a VW dealership. Doesn’t quite say so sorry your car’s re-sale value has dropped… and for lying to you… and for letting you drive about in a nitrogen oxide chimney does it? And U.S owners do not appear to be pleased, with some calling the offer a “slap in the face”. Not to mention VW seem to have forgotten about the rest of the affected world.
Lawyers are still trying to find out if taking the cards waivers any customer rights to claim compensation or join a lawsuit. VW have not made the terms clear. Are the cards a gesture of goodwill whilst the lawsuits begin or are they hoping to buy people off with, essentially, $500?
Alongside their customers, VW are also trying their luck with their employees. The brand hope to get to the route of the emissions scandal by offering employees amnesty for their information. Any employee, excluding top-level, that has any info or knowledge of how and why the scandal managed to arise is being eagerly sought after by VW board members and investigators. After all, we only know about the CO2 emissions thanks to someone speaking up.
The company has set a deadline for this whistle-blower program. Up until the 30th of November, a VW employee can confess their sins without punishment. Okay, maybe not their sins, but any information they have on the emissions scandal. If they come forward before the end of the month, they will be spared from losing their job and facing damage claims. The brand has told them however, that they cannot protect anyone from criminal charges if they admit to being involved.
Müller isn’t having a great time either. After less than two months as VW CEO, shareholders want him to step down. Certain investors believe that the scandal can only be resolved by outside leadership. Müller, who has been with the company for almost 40 years, has been criticised for lack of information, both on who is to blame and how much it’ll cost.
I’m sure next week we’ll have more scandalous news for you. I don’t think VW has run out of surprises just yet…