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商业 - 汽车

大众“排放门”或可追溯至1999年

Geoffrey Smith 2016年04月27日

早在1999年环保标准收紧之际,大众旗下奥迪部门的工程师们就开始考虑利用非法软件来掩盖实际排放水平,比起大众真正决定使用这款软件要早得多。

大众正竭尽全力在自定期限前就“排放门”做出解释,此事的源头可能比意料中更为久远。

德国《商报》本周二报道,早在1999年环保标准收紧之际,大众旗下奥迪部门的工程师们就开始考虑利用非法软件来掩盖实际排放水平,比起大众真正决定使用这款软件要早得多。

大众一直坚持说“排放门”最早发生在位于德国沃尔夫斯堡的大众核心品牌,从报道来看该公司的说法很有问题。这条消息也让外界更加怀疑已经下课的大众首席执行官马丁•文德恩有共谋嫌疑,因为当时他正担任奥迪部门的负责人。文德恩称自己对非法软件一无所知;对于2014年内部调查员提出的相关警示信息,他也视而不见,亦或未曾察觉。

这条消息也是发酵了七个月的“排放门”事件中两次转折之一。另据彭博报道,4月28日大众将披露去年第四季度以及全年业绩,届时该公司可能还是没法把丑闻解释清楚。去年9月,大众聘请律师事务所Jones Day对“排放门”展开内部调查,目前事务所的调查人员仍在努力整理去年收集的大量信息。

部分问题似乎在于,20名接受调查的大众发动机开发部门人员里,至少有好几个人都在用暗语掩饰行为(要知道,新任CEO马提亚斯•穆勒今年初曾表示,大众认为自己并没有犯任何错误)。暗语中最重要的一个是“音响软件”,代指大众在自家汽车上安装的一套软件,用途是辨别车辆是在监管部门的实验室里测试,还是在普通道路上行驶。如果在实验室里,车辆的发动机功率就会保持在美国环保局和加州空气资源委员会设定的标准以下;但如果在路上,车辆就会进入性能更强且更耗油的模式,当然最关键的是,空气污染更严重。

大众正面临多个最终期限。该公司第二大股东,下萨克森州政府已经表示,希望大众在4月底前做出合理解释。只是如果大众未能做到这一点,还不清楚州政府会怎样惩罚本州最大的纳税人和用人单位。更重要的是,大众与美国环保局以及加州空气资源委员会的谈判将于本周五结束,三方的目标是想办法维修美国的涉事车辆。如若不然,大众就得全额赔偿相关买家和经销商因失去转售价值而蒙受的损失。

同样是在本周五,大众监事会必须就高管的2015年奖金做一些决定。这应该是一场有意思的讨论,原因是一半监事都是工会代表,他们越来越担心“排放门”会引发裁员。另外,大众靠作假提高柴油车在美国市场竞争力时,担任首席财务官的正是如今的监事会主席汉斯•迪特•珀奇。

下萨克森州政府以及大众普通股东联合会正在向公司高层施压,希望他们彻底放弃去年的奖金,毕竟去年大众损失了数十亿美元,股东手中的股票市值也缩水了几十亿美元。但大众担心不发奖金会导致个别管理层成员起诉,特别是能理直气壮宣称跟“排放门”事件没关系的高管。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

Volkswagen is struggling to meet its own self-imposed deadline for explaining its emissions scandal—which may have roots that go farther back than previously thought.

The newspaper Handelsblatt reported Tuesday that engineers at VW’s Audi division had considered using illegal software to mask emissions levels in the event of environmental standards being tightened as early as 1999—well before VW actually decided to use it.

The report contradicts the company’s long-held line that the problem originated at its core VW brand in Wolfsburg. It also increases suspicions about the complicity of the now-departed CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was head of Audi at the time. Winterkorn, who denies having any knowledge of the illegal software, either ignored or failed to spot warning messages about the scale of the problem from internal investigators in 2014.

That revelation is one of two fresh twists in a scandal that’s already in its seventh month. According to a report by Bloomberg, VW may not be able to give a full account of the scandal when it publishes its fourth-quarter and full-year accounts on April 28. Investigators at law firm Jones Day, which VW asked to perform an internal investigation into the affair back in September, are struggling to wade through the wealth of data they gathered last year.

Part of the problem, it seems, is that at least some of the 20 engine development employees on whom the investigation is focusing used code words to cover their tracks. (Remember: CEO Matthias Müller suggested earlier this year that the company didn’t think it had done anything wrong). Chief among these was the term “acoustic software” to refer to the package of code that VW installed in the cars to detect whether the car was being tested by regulators in the lab, or being run on the open road. In the former case, the engines ran just within the limits prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resource Board, but in the latter, they switched into a higher-performance, more fuel-hungry and—crucially—dirtier mode of operation.

The deadlines are coming thick and fast at VW now. Its second-largest shareholder, the state of Lower Saxony, has said it wants proper answers by the end of April, although it isn’t clear quite how it intends to sanction the largest taxpayer and employer in the state if it fails. More importantly, it has until Friday to negotiate a solution for fixing its U.S. cars with the EPA and CARB, or else face having to compensate buyers and dealers in full for their complete loss of resale value.

Also on Friday, the supervisory board has to come to some kind of decision on bonuses for the management for 2015, which should be an interesting discussion, given that half of the board is made up representatives of labor unions who are increasingly afraid of job cuts in the wake of the scandal, and that the body is chaired by Hans Dieter Pötsch, the man who was chief financial officer during the period when VW was cutting corners to make its diesels competitive in the U.S.

Both Lower Saxony and the association of VW’s free shareholders are pressing for management to accept no bonus at all for last year, reflecting the multi-billion loss it will take and the billions of dollars of shareholder value destroyed. Yet the company fears lawsuits from individual management board members if they aren’t given a bonus, especially those who can claim that they weren’t directly involved in the conspiracy.

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