The emissions scandal could undermine the image of Europe as a whole.
The headlines sound like something from a war bulletin: six months after its disclosure in September 2015, the scandal over diesel vehicles that cheated on emission tests and were sold by Volkswagen in the United States seems set to have a profound impact beyond the German car manufacturer itself. The reputation of the entire German industrial model is at stake, with unforeseeable consequences that might reach far beyond Berlin, since Germany is still Europe’s driving economic force and, to this day, the country behind the ‘Made in Germany’ label is regarded as an example to be followed.
After having set aside 6.5 billion euros to cope with the consequences of a scandal involving 11 million vehicles that failed to comply with emission standards, the car manufacturer from Wolfsburg must now face much more substantial compensation claims. In order to compensate for the environmental damages caused by in- creased pollution levels in the United States, Volkswagen could end up with up to 19 billion dollars in penalties (€17.4bn) from the US Environmental Protection Agency alone. And that’s not to mention the fact that the Department of Justice in Washington has not yet announced the legal actions it intends to take. Cheated customers will also soon start filing lawsuits, and investigations and legal initiatives are proliferating all over the world. Even a Chinese environmentalist organization, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, is suing the German car manufacturer.