VW Emissions Scandal Hovers Over German Car Show

Sep 27, 2015
Originally published on September 27, 2015 11:51 am

The Frankfurt Auto Show is a car lover's paradise. You're plunged into a world of gleaming new cars and cutting edge technology. You'd think it would be the perfect place to get the scoop on the Volkswagen scandal.

But no one working for Volkswagen, Porsche or Audi will talk about it all. Still, regular Germans are ready to open up. Michael Kornath says his VW car happens to be one of the 8 million vehicles with the emissions evading device attached to its diesel motor.

"And I talked with them, 'What shall I do now?' " he says, "And they say wait."

Kornath doesn't believe this is only a German scandal. So far there's no evidence that any other carmaker attached these devices to its motors. But Kornath thinks other countries' carmakers have been evading emissions tests too. He says it's just a matter of time before they're discovered.

"It's normal in our time, I think," he says. "It's not a good thing, and it's good that it is found, but in 20 or 30 years, we do not speak about cars with fuel, only with electricity. That's a good thing, I think, for the next generation."

When the doors close Sunday on the 10-day auto show, some one million people will have visited. Despite the scandal, the crowds are wowed by the show's massive display of lights, technology and speed.

You can take a ride in a simulator to see what it feels like to be a Formula 1 racecar driver. And those models who are always standing beside the cars in magazines and at car shows haven't disappeared.

Model Manuela Canosa says the VW scandal hasn't affected her, because the job and the money are still good.

"Yes, I like it," she says. "It's so easy because you only have to stay here and smiling and oh it's kind of good feeling."

But many people do not have a good feeling this year at the Frankfurt car show. The scandal has cast a pall over Volkswagen and called into question the excellence of German manufacturing. Volkswagen's new CEO, Mathias Muller has promised to get to the bottom of the affair and restore trust in the company. But VW's stock has plummeted and dealerships are reporting a drop in sales.

PR consultant Hasso Manfeld says in the past other German companies have been caught up in scandals — take Deutsche Bank and Siemens — but damage to the country's automobile sector is something else.

"That is part of our self identity, the art of German engineering," Manfeld says. "That is which hits us into the core."

The U.S. and Switzerland have temporarily halted the import of new VW diesel vehicles, and Spain has asked Volkswagen to return government subsidies for producing clean cars. Sunday's edition of newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine asks how much did former CEO Martin Winterkorn know.

And at the Frankfurt Car Show, German pride has given way to angst.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Germans are really proud of their bratwurst, their beer and their cars. Every year, German car enthusiasts flock to the Frankfurt Auto Show. But this year, the world's largest such event is taking place amid the Volkswagen emissions scandal. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Frankfurt and has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking German).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The Frankfurt Auto Show is a car lover's paradise. Plunged into a world of gleaming new cars and cutting edge technology, you'd think it would be the perfect place to get the scoop on the Volkswagen scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We don't give any statements. If you would like to get information about news, I'd like to ask you to contact our press department.

BEARDSLEY: But no one working for Volkswagen, Porsche or Audi will talk about it at all, and other carmakers seem guarded. Still, regular Germans are ready to open up. Michael Kornath says his VW car happens to be one of eight million vehicles with the emissions-evading devices attached to its diesel motor.

MICHAEL KORNATH: And I talked with them, what I shall do now.

BEARDSLEY: What'd they say?

KORNATH: And they say wait.

BEARDSLEY: Kornath doesn't believe this is only a German scandal. So far there's no evidence that any other carmaker attached these devices to its motors, but Kornath thinks other country's carmakers have been evading emissions tests, too. He says it's just a matter of time before they're discovered.

KORNATH: It's normal in our time, I think. It's not a good thing, and it's good that it is found. But in 20-30 years, we do not speak about cars with fuel, only with electricity. And that's a good thing, I think, for the next generation.

BEARDSLEY: When the doors close tonight on the 10-day auto show, some one million people will have visited. Despite the scandal, the crowds are wowed by the show's massive display of lights, technology and speed.

JIMMY DAY: Hold on tight and here we go.

BEARDSLEY: You can take a ride in a simulator to see what it feels like to be a Formula 1 racecar driver. Simulator operator Jimmy Day describes the experience.

DAY: Simulating two laps around the Barcelona circuit with Jenson Button. It's the real car data and the real footage. It's a pure adrenaline simulator.

BEARDSLEY: And you know those pretty young women who are always standing beside the cars in magazines and at car shows?

Hello.

MANUELA CANOSA: Hello.

BEARDSLEY: (Speaking German).

I decide to go talk to one - model Manuela Canosa. She says the VW scandal hasn't affected her 'cause the job and the money are still good.

CANOSA: Yes, I like it. It's so easy because you only have to stay here and smiling and, oh, it's kind of good feeling.

BEARDSLEY: But many people do not have a good feeling this year at the Frankfurt car show. The scandal has cast a pall over Volkswagen and called into question the excellence of German manufacturing. Volkswagen's new CEO, Mathias Muller, has promised to get to the bottom of the affair and restore trust in the company. But VW's stock has plummeted and dealerships are reporting a drop in sales. PR consultant Hasso Manfeld says in the past, other German companies have been caught up in scandals - take Deutschebank and Siemens - but he says damage to the country's automobile sector is something else.

HASSO MANFELD: That is part of our self-identity, the art of German engineering, that is which hits us into the core.

BEARDSLEY: The U.S. and Switzerland have temporarily halted the import of new VW diesel vehicles, and Spain has asked Volkswagen to return government subsidies for producing clean cars. Speaking of former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, Sunday's edition of newspaper Frankfurter Algemeine asks, how much did he know? And at the Frankfurt car show, German pride has given way to angst. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Frankfurt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.