VW board to meet to consider radical company revamp

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Berlin (dpa) – Volkswagen’s board is to hold a crisis meeting on Wednesday to consider a comprehensive revamp of the group in the wake of the crisis triggered by revelations that the German carmaker cheated on global exhaust emissions tests.

VW new chief executive Matthias Mueller is expected to lay out at Wednesday’s meeting of VW’s powerful presidium of the supervisory board – representing key shareholders, unions and executives – plans for rebuilding the company’s battered image, officials told dpa on Tuesday.

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt briefed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on details of the scandal on Tuesday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Mueller said in a letter to the company’s management on Monday that the group faced “a major test” as it sets about making sweeping changes to VW’s corporate culture, following its admissions last week that the carmaker had installed software in its diesel brands to beat emissions tests.

“What it comes down to is regaining the lost confidence,” said Mueller, who was named on Friday as VW’s new chief after Martin Winterkorn resigned to take responsibility for the crisis.

Prosecutors in the German city of Braunschweig announced on Monday that they had opened an investigation into Winterkorn, focused on whether fraud had been involved in the sale of vehicles fitted with the emissions-test-defeating software.

VW required “a relentless and consistent effort to clear up [the scandal],” Mueller told executives, adding that VW faced a “difficult road” to emerge from the scandal, which broke more than 10 days ago.

However, Mueller, who previously headed up VW’s luxury offshoot Porsche, said he expects the number of cars worldwide equipped with the illegal software to be less than the 11 million that the company estimated last week.

VW plans to begin contacting customers affected by the scandal in the next few days on the steps the company will take for correcting the software.

The firm will suggest a software revision and perhaps also “slight interventions” on the motors of its cars, VW brand chief Herbert Diess told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday evening, ahead of a meeting with EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska.

Diess had been due to set out the steps the company plans to take to ensure the group’s vehicles do not contain the software.

“Our main focus is really on the customers,” he said. “We made some mistakes we are really sorry about and we are concerned and we will do the utmost to solve the problems and make sure that those kind of problems can’t happen again.”

Bienkowska wrote on Twitter after the meeting that the “current situation must be fully explained and investigated.”

“Both participants agreed that restoring the confidence in the European car industry is of utmost importance,” a commission spokesperson said. “The commission stressed the importance to fully cooperate with national authorities.”

Officials at the carmaker’s head office in the northern German town of Wolfsburg decided about a decade ago to install the software in its diesel-powered vehicles in a bid to boost the group’s market share in the giant US market, company sources told dpa.

In addition to its VW diesel brands, the group said this week that the software had been installed in models produced by both its mass market Skoda brand as well as Audi.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said the European Union’s executive is working on “gaining a full picture before deciding on what the next steps should be.”

EU ministers are also expected to informally discuss the Volkswagen scandal at competitiveness talks in Luxembourg on Thursday.

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