VW Emissions Scandal Hovers Over German Car Show

September 27, 2015

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.

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