Matthias Müller has reason to smile again.
Thomas Niedermueller Getty Images
By Geoffrey Smith
December 9, 2015

Germany’s scandal-plagued auto giant has one less thing to worry about.

Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) said Wednesday that it won’t, after all, have to pay out billions in respect of dodgy marketing claims over the fuel efficiency (and thus the carbon dioxide emissions) of its cars.

VW said in a statement that its investigations had uncovered “no unlawful change to the stated fuel consumption and CO2 figures…to date,” and added that it will only need to make small adjustments to its catalogue of marketing materials, affecting “only a small number of the model variants.”

“Against this background, the negative impact on earnings of €2 billion ($2.2 billion) that was originally expected has not been confirmed,” VW summed up.

The brouhaha over VW’s fuel efficiency claims is a separate issue from the scandal over illegal doctoring of emissions data on its diesel-powered vehicles. Last month, when VW first announced the problem it had estimated that up to 800,000 vehicles could be affected. That had trashed the company’s stock, not only because of the immediate financial impact, but because it raised suspicions that corporate duplicity at VW was much more widespread than thought.

 

VW said that the average deviation of actual performance from its claims was minimal, and that even in the worst cases, CO2 emissions were only 4 grams per kilometer more than VW had said. As such, there will now be no mass recalls or expensive retrofits. Just as importantly, the findings mean that the company won’t have to make retroactive tax payments on behalf of drivers whose vehicles are dirtier than thought. Germany, like some other European Union countries, imposes an annual levy on each car according to its CO2 emissions performance.

Volkswagen’s preferred shares have shot higher again in response to the news and by lunchtime in Frankfurt, they were up 6.8%, while almost all the rest of the German market was lower. They’ve now recouped half of what they lost since the diesel emissions scandal broke in September.

VW is due to hold a press conference Thursday to update investors on the scandal.

Separately, it was reported Tuesday that the cases against VW in the U.S. will be consolidated in environmentally-sensitive California, reflecting the fact that nearly a fifth of the suits filed against the company there have been lodged in that state. VW had instead suggested either the district courts of Michigan or Virginia.

UPDATE: this story has been updated to reflect Volkswagen’s confirmation of an earlier newspaper leak.

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