Volkswagen Will Focus On Electric Vehicle Sales To Atone For Rigging Scandal

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The head of scandal-plagued Volkswagen etched out plans Thursday to completely restructure the company to focus its efforts on building electric vehicles and car-sharing apps as a way to restore credibility.

VW CEO Matthias Mueller said at the company’s annual conference that fixing the tainted diesel power vehicles “will remain our most important task until the very last vehicle has been put in order.”

After the vehicles have been repaired, he said, the company will begin building 20 new electric vehicle models by 2020 — the move will “make electric cars one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks,” according to Mueller.

VW admitted in September to installing a type of cheating device in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles, including in many high-selling models such as the Beetle and Porsche Cayenne.

The company said it lost $6.2 billion in 2015 from the fuel emissions cheating scandal. The German-based automaker hemorrhaged more money last year than it made in profit ($2.8 billion) in 2014.

The scandal did not seem to affect the company as much as anticipated, as VW became the top automaker — it outsold both Toyota and General Motors in the first quarter of 2016 by more than 200,000 units.

Mueller went on a mini-apology tour during the annual conference, telling attendees at the Wolfsburg, Germany meeting that “we disappointed many people who trusted Volkswagen.”

He also took the opportunity to personally apologize to President Barack Obama for manipulating the vehicles’ fuel emission systems and duping U.S. regulators.

“I used the opportunity to personally apologize to him for our behavior,” Mueller said. “I thanked him for the constructive cooperation with his officials. Of course I also expressed the hope that I will be able to continue to fulfill my responsibility to 600,000 employees and their families as well as suppliers and dealers.”

The company was forced to ratchet up the amount of money it set aside to handle the scandal to $18.2 billion — that amount could increase as more fines and lawsuits come down the pike. VW previously stashed $7.6 billion to atone for the scandal.

A report from German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in February indicated the Environmental Protection Agency requested VW produce electric vehicles in Tennessee as just one way it could make up for the scandal. The agency also asked the company to construct thousands of charging stations throughout the U.S.

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