VW Needs `Titanic’ Effort to Conquer Emissions, Trade Issues

August 2, 2018 Updated: August 2, 2018

Volkswagen AG warned that it will take a huge effort to meet delivery targets this year, as the world’s largest automaker battles trade tensions and stricter emissions rules while preparing to amp up its digital investments.

Tougher pollution-testing procedures, aimed at preventing a repeat of Volkswagen’s cheating scandal, will take effect next month and lead to production slowdowns, the German automaker said Aug. 1. The German manufacturer is also bracing for higher tariffs around the globe, which could particularly hit Audi and Porsche, the group’s main profit earners.

“Protectionist tendencies are escalating worldwide,” Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said in a speech on Aug. 1.

Meeting delivery goals while avoiding deep discounts this year will be a “titanic task,” said Diess, who recently completed his first 100 days in office.

Looking ahead, Diess is trying to ready the automaker for coming challenges, from electrification to self-driving cars to new businesses like car-sharing. The company needs a “massive expansion” in software and in its digital investments, including partnerships and acquisitions, as it faces new competition from China and the U.S. West Coast, he said. “Those are the challenges,” Diess said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Volkswagen shares fell after the company, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said it wouldn’t be able to repeat the 23 percent surge in profit it reported for the second quarter. The challenges range from economic volatility, increasing competition and the costs of the ongoing diesel scandal, to new, time-consuming exhaust testing in the EU, Volkswagen said in a statement Aug. 1.

The cost of implementing so-called WLTP tests may reach 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion), Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter said on a call. The carmaker churned out more vehicles ahead of the rules change, as production jumped 13.5 percent in the second quarter, twice the growth rate of deliveries. Volkswagen said earlier this year that the company may experience inventory build-up ahead of the Sept. 1 introduction of the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Test Procedure.

Diess is grappling with political challenges alongside an internal overhaul in the aftermath of the three-year-old diesel crisis, which continues to burden the industrial giant. In the second quarter, the company took 1.64 billion euros ($1.92 billion) in charges, mainly for a fine from German authorities, raising the total damages to about 27.4 billion euros. Rupert Stadler, the now-suspended head of the Audi luxury unit, was arrested in June by Munich prosecutors and remains in custody.

Volkswagen shares fell as much as 4.5 percent, and were down 3.3 percent at 147.28 euros at 4:26 p.m. in Frankfurt trading, taking the decline for the year to 12 percent.

From Bloomberg