VW Moves Beyond Criminal Case, but Not Without a Scolding


A Volkswage vehicle emissions test in 2015. Last month, the automaker received approval from the E.P.A. to sell about 67,000 vehicles in an emissions repair program approved by federal and state regulators.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

DETROIT — The criminal case against Volkswagen for its decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests ended Friday with a scolding, an apology and $4.3 billion in penalties.

The sentence, affirmed at a court hearing, had been recommended by federal prosecutors in January as part of a deal in which the German automaker agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges for illegally importing nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with devices to circumvent emissions standards.

The conclusion of the criminal case, 19 months after the vast cheating operation was first revealed, was a milestone in Volkswagen’s recovery from a scandal that badly damaged its reputation and sales. This week it delivered an encouraging quarterly report, and the company has even been given permission to sell — with modifications — the diesel cars at the center of the case.

But the hearing in Federal District Court in Michigan was a reminder of the cloud under which Volkswagen remained.

The judge, Sean Cox, chastised the automaker for the “corporate greed” that led to its “deliberate and massive fraud” against consumers and regulators.

And while seven Volkswagen executives have been criminally charged for their roles in the scandal, the judge said more blame should be put on the company’s top management and its supervisory board.

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“It’s not the management at VW, the ones who get paid big salaries and high bonuses, it’s the little guy,” he said. “The person who has really been hurt is the man or woman who labors at Volkswagen to make a car.”

Volkswagen’s general counsel, Manfred Döss, said the company felt remorse for its wrongdoing and was committed to changing its corporate culture and restoring its battered reputation.

“We let people down, and for that we are deeply sorry,” he said.

The settlement of the criminal case brings the financial toll on Volkswagen to more than $20 billion in fines, penalties and other legal settlements, which include lawsuits brought by consumers who purchased cars that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.

Volkswagen will also be on probation for three years and will be supervised by an independent monitor who will…

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