VW ‘rigged tests on 2.8m cars in Germany’

Updated 25 September 2015
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VW ‘rigged tests on 2.8m cars in Germany’

WOLFSBURG, Germany: Volkswagen rigged emission tests on about 2.8 million diesel vehicles in Germany, the country’s transport minister said, nearly six times as many as it has admitted to falsifying in the US.
His comments, pointing to cheating on a bigger scale than previously thought, deepened the crisis at the world’s largest automaker
Volkswagen has named Matthias Mueller, head of its luxury sports car brand Porsche, as its new CEO tasked with steering it out of the wreckage of a pollution test rigging scandal.
Mueller, 62, will take over immediately, replacing Martin Winterkorn who stepped down two days earlier, said the head of the supervisory board, Berthold Huber, at the car maker’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, northern Germany.
“My most pressing task will be to restore confidence in the Volkswagen Group — through an unsparing investigation and maximum transparency, but also by drawing the right lessons from the current situation,” Mueller vowed.
“Volkswagen under my leadership will make every effort to develop the most rigorous compliance and governance standards in the entire industry and to implement them.”
Huber praised Mueller as “a figure with great strategic, entrepreneurial and social skills.”
“He knows the company and its brands, will tackle his new position immediately and with full force. We explicitly appreciate his critical and constructive views.”
Shares in the German company, which had started to steady after sharp falls earlier this week, were down 4.5 percent at 1335 GMT after Bloomberg also reported that executives in Germany controlled aspects of the manipulated US tests, citing three people familiar with the US business.
Volkswagen is under heavy pressure to show it can get to grips with the biggest business-related scandal in its 78-year history.
Mueller, 62, would represent part of the fresh start that Winterkorn said was needed when he stepped down.
Volkswagen shares have plunged as much as 40 percent, wiping tens of billions of euros off its market value, since US regulators said last Friday it had admitted to programming diesel cars to detect when they were being tested and alter the running of their engines to conceal their true emissions.
The scandal keeps growing. German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said on Thursday Volkswagen had also cheated tests in Europe, where its sales are much higher, and on Friday put the number of affected vehicles in Germany at 2.8 million.
Regulators and prosecutors across the world are investigating the scandal.
The wider car market has been rocked, with manufacturers fearing a drop in sales of diesel cars and tighter regulations, while customers and motor dealers are furious that Volkswagen has yet to say whether it will have to recall any cars.
“VW needs to be very open about what has happened, how it was possible that this could happen to make sure that this never happens again in the future,” said a leading Volkswagen shareholder, underlining the importance of the board meeting.
“These are priorities that should override all other considerations at the moment.”
The task facing Mueller, if his selection is confirmed, is huge. The company said on Tuesday 11 million vehicles worldwide were fitted with the software that allowed it to cheat US tests, while adding it was not turned on in the bulk of them.
Analysts hope that on Friday it may at last say which models and construction years are affected, and whether cars will need to be refitted.
They also expect it to announce a full investigation of the scandal, with German newspaper Handelsblatt saying it planned to hire US law firm Jones Day to lead a no holds barred inquiry, and to give the outlines of a new management structure likely to be less centralized, but with a clearer system of checks.

TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
Volkswagen has long been seen as a symbol of German industrial prowess and the auto industry is one of the country’s major employers and a key source of export revenue.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen delivered a presentation to investors at the annual Frankfurt motor show entitled “Stability in Volatile Times.” Now Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging it to act quickly to restore confidence in the Volkswagen name.

Frank Schellenberg, a taxi driver in Wolfsburg where the carmaker employs around 70,000 people, said locals felt betrayed and feared the worst.
“They have lost any contact with the real world, the customers who have been buying their cars in good faith,” he said, pointing to the firm’s 13-story administrative building. “Everyone in Wolfsburg is expecting tough times and job cuts.”
Half a dozen Greenpeace protesters were outside Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant on Friday, waving banners saying “No more lies!” in front of three diesel-engine VW Golf hatchbacks.
Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said he would welcome the appointment of Mueller, a former head of product strategy and close to the Piech-Porsche family that controls Volkswagen.
But Bernstein’s Max Warburton questioned whether a man who has spent more than three decades at the company was the right man to signal a break with the past. He favors Herbert Diess, a former research and development chief of rival BMW who was hired to run the VW brand in December.
“VW needs to think big and bold,” Warburton said, urging the new CEO to offer to buy back and scrap almost 500,000 diesel cars sold in the US, which would cost about $6 billion, as well as suspend the 100 engineers most closely associated with the affected engines and software.
Another top Volkswagen shareholder said it would have been better for Winterkorn to sort out the crisis before handing over to a successor, pointing to how oil company BP managed its recovery from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“I would have preferred Winterkorn to have stuck around for another month or so, through the worst of the storm, then the company appoint another CEO.”
Environmentalists have long complained that carmakers game the vehicle testing regime to exaggerate the fuel-efficiency and emissions readings of their vehicles.
The International Council on Clean Transportation, one of the research groups that helped uncover Volkswagen’s deception, has published new data showing carbon dioxide emissions in European road tests were on average 40 percent higher than the laboratory results advertised in car sales literature.
European politicians on Wednesday voted to speed up a tightening of testing rules.


UK’s Quercus pulls plug on $570 mln Iran solar plant as sanctions bite

Updated 14 August 2018
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UK’s Quercus pulls plug on $570 mln Iran solar plant as sanctions bite

  • Quercus said it will halt the construction of a 500 million euro ($570 million) solar power plant in Iran
  • Iran has been trying to increase the share of renewable-produced electricity in its energy mix

OSLO: A British renewable energy investor Quercus said it will halt the construction of a 500 million euro ($570 million) solar power plant in Iran due to recently imposed US sanctions on Tehran.
The solar plant in Iran would have been the first renewable energy investment outside Europe by Quercus and the world’s sixth largest, with a 600 megawatt (MW) capacity.
Iran has been trying to increase the share of renewable-produced electricity in its energy mix, partly due to air pollution and to meet international commitments, hoping to have about 5 gigawatt in renewables installed by 2022.
In June, before the US-imposed sanctions, more than 250 companies had signed agreements to add and sell power from about 4 gigawatt of new renewables in the country, which has only 602 MW installed, Iranian energy ministry data showed.
Washington reimposed sanctions last week after pulling out of a 2015 international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
US president Donald Trump has also threatened to penalize companies that continue to operate in Iran, which led banks and many companies around the world to scale back their dealings with Tehran.
“Following the US sanctions on Iran, we have decided to cease all activities in the country, including our 600 MW project. We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Quercus chief executive Diego Biasi said in an email on Tuesday.
The firm will continue to monitor the situation closely, said Biasi, who declined to comment further.
Last year Quercus said it would set up a project company and sell shares via a private placement after attracting interest from private and institutional investors, including sovereign wealth funds.
Construction was expected to take three years, with each 100 MW standalone lot becoming operational and connecting to the grid every six months.

SANCTIONS BITE
Independently-owned Quercus has a portfolio of around 28 renewable energy plants and 235 MW of installed capacity.
The firm, founded by Biasi and Simone Borla in 2010, controls five investment funds and has a network of “highly regarded external partners,” it says on its website.
The 600 MW plant it aimed to construct in Iran would be the firm’s largest investment. Quercus declined to comment on the details of its decision to cease the plan and on any financial losses that could result from it.
Fearing the consequences of the US embargo, a string of European companies have recently announced they would scale back their business in Iran.
On Tuesday, German engineering group Bilfinger, said it did not plan to sign any new business in the country, while automotive supplier Duerr on Aug. 11 said it had halted activities in Iran.
Another project, planned by Norway’s Saga Energy, which said last October it aimed to build 2 GW of new solar energy capacity in Iran and to start construction by the end of 2018, has also stalled.
Saga Energy’s chief of operations Rune Haaland told Reuters it was still working on getting the funding, which is more complicated since recent developments, and although it aimed to push on with its plans, construction could be delayed. ($1 = 0.8773 euros)