No fan of Porsche racing will have enjoyed the recent news that former Porsche R&D supremo, Wolfgang Hatz, had been arrested in connection with ongoing investigations into the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal.
Hatz’ arrest is not the first in this story and will not be the last. The most detailed piece I have read regarding Hatz was on Arstechnica, in an article which said the former VW and Audi engine chief was the fourth arrest made so far in relation to the dieselgate scandal:
“Hatz, who is reportedly being held without bail, is the fourth VW Group employee to be arrested in connection with the scandal (VW Group as an entity pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act in early 2017). James Liang, a former VW engineer, was arrested in 2016 in the US and sentenced to 40 months in prison; Oliver Schmidt, a German emissions compliance executive who worked in the US, was arrested in Miami in December; and Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, an Italian citizen who was the former chief of thermodynamics in Audi’s engine development department, was arrested in Germany earlier this year.”
One senses the growing inevitability of further arrests amongst former or current board members. Exactly what punishment might be meted out to directors and board members convicted of wrongdoing is unknown, but the situation continues to be closely monitored by many news outlets. VW’s (presumably vast) media spend to underpin positive public perception of the organisation has not brought the carmaker out of the woods just yet.
Knowing that one of the people at the very top of Porsche Motorsport success has been arrested for allegedly cheating air quality regulations leaves an unpleasant taste, it’s not going to be too surprising if some people extrapolate a flexible regard for passenger vehicle legislation into the possibility of bending a few rules to win a world championship. I prefer not to think like this, but YMMV. It is also very hard to accept that Volkswagen remains the only car manufacturer that has ever done this sort of thing, so who is investigating the rest of them?
Diesel Emissions effect on Porsche SE
Two years after the emissions scandal broke, Porsche SE continues to feel the pain. When Volkswagen recently announced further “negative special items” (i.e. big numbers in red ink) of more than €2.5 billion due to the ongoing emissions crisis, Porsche SE – which holds more than 30% of VW’s shares – announced that this would inevitably hit its own profits, which were now expected to land somewhere between €2.1 and 3.1 billion.
Summing up SE’s press release in the words of Monty Python’s Black Knight, missing the first arm: “I’ve had worse.”