Oliver Schmidt, Volkswagen’s environmental chief in Michigan has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. The charge relates to the emissions scandal that has embroiled the company since it emerged that they had cheated with regards to their cars emissions.
The manager didn’t enter a plea. He was shackled and in a jail uniform. He is implicated for not informing authorities of the cheating device that was installed in to VW cars. The device was used by the company for nine years, between 2006 & 2015. It appears that Mr Schmidt was arrested upon his return to the United States from Germany after returning from a holiday. He had previously contacted authorities after learning of the investigation in to him, but hadn’t been arrested.
The arrest is a further blow to the company, who are on the verge of settling a $3 billion agreement with the justice department over the dealings. The deal is thought to be happening in the next few days, though that may not help Mr Schmidt. As the authorities have taken a dim view over his conduct, it’s not known as to whether the company may be able to come to an agreement over him.
The scandal regarding the devices meant that for 9 years the auto maker had managed to subvert the system for testing emissions on its vehicles. This allowed 580,000 vehicles in the US to skirt around the rules. Some of the vehicles are said to have produced as much as 40 times the legal limit.
The company has been in hot water ever since. In the UK it’s been announced that a group of drivers are planning to take legal action against the company at an average of £3000 per vehicle with over 10,000 drivers joining the action. This is without the harm done to the brand itself. As one of the world’s largest car makers VW sells millions of cars a year, and in a tough and vibrant market place negative publicity can badly damage a company. It is highly likely that this stain will stay with VW for many years to come. But in the meantime their thought will be concentrated on the cases that will be taken against them from around the world.
It will be interesting to see how the giant auto maker negotiates a profitable future out of the furore, which threatens to do existential damage to the company.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.