Volkswagen partners with e-car software developer amidst Stadler prosecutions

Volkswagen’s new agreement with the electric car charging station software developer has·to·be GmbH promises vehicles powered by electricity generated on a CO2-free basis. This promise is in stark contrast to the current criminal inquiry into the Volkswagen Group member Audi’s business practices under Rupert Stadler’s tenure.

In September of 2015, Volkswagen admitted to the use of illegal engine control software that allowed some of their diesel engines to activate their emission controls only during laboratory emissions testing, causing the vehicle to perform in adherence to legal standards only when undergoing regulatory testing. The cheating software was installed in roughly 11m cars between 2009 and 2015, the discovery of which prompted a mass recall and refit of Volkswagen cars and engines sold during those years, as well as an investigation into the company’s diesel engines. On 31 July 2019, German prosecutors said that charges of fraud, false certification and criminal advertising practices had been filed against Audi’s former CEO Rupert Stadler and three other defendants speculated to have been involved in the cheating software. These charges follow similar charges against former Volkwagen head Martin Winterkorn, filed in April regarding his role in the scandal.

In the midst of these prosecutorial proceedings, the new Volkswagen leadership is taking the company in the opposite direction. Where before, software had been used to cheat emissions tests, the Volkswagen Group company Elli is entering a new partnership with a software company that intends to significantly decrease emissions. Elli is set to purchase a minority share in has·to·be GmbH, an electric car charging station software developer and supplier. This new partnership indicates Volkswagen’s intention to increase and continue to promote their electric vehicle range. With the help of has·to·be, Volkswagen could install many new charging stations across Europe, making the sales of their electric car range more viable to European consumers.

If successful, the partnership could help Volkswagen retain its place as a major player in the automobile industry despite the current criminal proceedings, by allowing it access to has·to·be’s charging station infrastructure and helping the manufacturer meet rising market demand for electric cars. Volkswagen will need to ensure that it uses this software to encourage change in their product range and satisfy upset consumers who may still distrust the company. The partnership must be carefully handled and responsibly regulated, for Volkswagen to successfully dispel emissions concerns and avoid another public scandal.

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