Volkswagen Dieselgate update: VW sales plummet, but Audi & Porsche are bringing home das bacon

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept electric two-seat coupe, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept electric two-seat coupe, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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It’s been a relatively slow couple of weeks on the Volkswagen Dieselgate front, but that’ll change within the next few days. By June 21, Volkswagen will unveil its plan to fix and/or buy back some 482,000 2.0-liter Audi and VW U.S. diesels equipped with emissions-test-cheating devices. (No word yet on the 85,000 3.0-liter Audi, Porsche, and VW models affected by the scandal.)

While we wait for that very big shoe to drop, here are some of the other Dieselgate-related stories we’ve been tracking:

VW had a terrible May in America: May of 2010 was an awful month for VW. The U.S. was still reeling from the Great Recession, and to make things worse, VW had long-since lost its appeal for American consumers. (The brand hadn’t sold more than 260,000 cars a year since 2003.) In other words, May 2010 was a low-water mark for the brand. Well, last month, VW bested that record–or worsted it. In May 2016, VW sold just 28,779 vehicles in the U.S., bringing the brand’s year-to-date sales 13 percent below 2015.

Volkswagen as a whole remains profitable: In terms of worldwide sales, VW is still operating in the black. That in itself is pretty remarkable, given the public outcry that’s arisen in response to the Dieselgate scandal. When Volkswagen announced final first-quarter figures last week, the VW brand earned a profit of 73 million euros ($83 million), which seems like a tidy sum until you consider that during the same quarter of last year, it earned 514 million euros ($586 million).

Volkswagen’s #1 secret to success #1: streamlining operations: VW’s parent company has been encouraging brands to use parts that can be employed across a range of models, and potentially across a range of brands. At this point, Volkswagen has decided against cutting staff. Instead, it’s making plans to invest in workers, ensuring that they remain useful as the auto industry becomes more reliant on electrification and digital technology.

Volkswagen’s #2 secret to success: Audi and Porsche: We’ve said for some time that Porsche and especially Audi are Volkswagen’s golden geese. That was made abundantly clear last week, as company officials confirmed Audi’s 1.3 billion euro ($1.5 billion) first-quarter profit–a bit smaller than last year’s 1.4 billion euro ($1.6 billion) boost,  but nothing to sneeze at. Porsche generated 895 million euros $1.02 billion) during the same period. 

VW is totally serious about electrics after all (maybe): Last October, as the “clean diesel” first began hitting Volkswagen’s fan, the company announced that it was moving in a new direction, focusing far more attention on electric vehicles. Last month, though, the automaker co-funded a study and published statements suggesting that its love affair with EVs was a sham. But never fear, voltage-lovers: Volkswagen is totally on board the electric train, vowing to sell one million battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by 2025. Heck, it may even develop a second EV platform. Will wonders never cease?

Nissan dogged by emissions claims: Between Dieselgate and Mitsubishi’s fuel economy fiasco in Japan, regulatory agencies around the globe are giving automakers another look–a long, hard, look. This week, the Korean Ministry of Environment determined that “the Nissan Qashqai sold in Korea was found to be arbitrarily setting its engine system to illegally control gas emissions”. Nissan says that the car was approved by the Korean government, but also noted that it would work with officials to bring the Qashqai in line with regulations. 

Note: for purposes of clarity, “Volkswagen” has been used to refer to the Volkswagen Group parent company, while “VW” has been used to refer to the company’s popular mass-market brand of automobiles.

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