Key events

On September 18, 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly announced in a “Notice of Violation” that irregularities in relation to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions had been discovered in emissions tests on certain Volkswagen Group vehicles with type 2.0 l diesel engines in the USA. In this context, Volkswagen AG announced that noticeable discrepancies between the figures achieved in testing and in actual road use had been identified in around eleven million vehicles worldwide with type EA 189 diesel engines. On November 2, 2015, the EPA issued a “Notice of Violation” alleging that irregularities had also been discovered in the software installed in US vehicles with type V6 3.0 l diesel engines.

In the months following publication of a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation in May 2014, Volkswagen AG’s Powertrain Development department checked the test set-ups on which the study was based for plausibility, confirming the unusually high NOx emissions from certain US vehicles with type EA 189 2.0 l diesel engines. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) – a part of the environmental authority of California – was informed of this result, and, at the same time, an offer was made to recalibrate the engine control unit software of type EA 189 diesel engines in the USA as part of a service measure that was already planned in the USA. This measure was evaluated and adopted by the Ausschuss für Produktsicherheit (APS – Product Safety Committee), which initiates necessary and appropriate measures to ensure the safety and conformity of Volkswagen AG products that have been placed in the market. There are no findings that an unlawful “defeat device” under US law was disclosed to the APS as the cause of the discrepancies or to the persons responsible for preparing the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements. Instead, at the time the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements were being prepared, the persons responsible for preparing the 2014 annual and consolidated financial statements remained under the impression that the issue could be solved with comparatively little effort.

In the course of the summer of 2015, however, it became successively apparent to individual members of Volkswagen AG’s Board of Management that the cause of the discrepancies in the USA was a modification of parts of the software of the engine control unit, which was later identified as an unlawful “defeat device” as defined by US law. This culminated in the disclosure of a “defeat device” to EPA and CARB on September 3, 2015. According to the assessment at that time of the responsible persons dealing with the matter, the scope of the costs expected by the Volkswagen Group (recall costs, retrofitting costs and financial penalties) was not fundamentally dissimilar to that of previous cases involving other vehicle manufacturers, and, therefore, appeared to be controllable overall with a view to the business activities of the Volkswagen Group. This assessment by the Volkswagen Group was based, among other things, on the advice of a law firm engaged in the USA for approval issues, according to which similar cases in the past were resolved amicably with the US authorities. The EPA's publication of the “Notice of Violation” on September 18, 2015, which the Board of Management had not expected, especially at that time, then presented the situation in an entirely different light.

In fiscal year 2019, additional special items of €2.3 billion had to be recognized in connection with the diesel issue. Charges of €2.6 billion were recognized under other operating expenses, which arose from the administrative fine order of €0.5 billion issued in May 2019 by the Stuttgart Public Prosecutor, which ended the ongoing regulatory offense proceeding against Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, and higher provisions for legal risks. This was set against the reversal of reserves for technical measures of €0.3 billion, which reduced cost of sales.

Furthermore, based on the information as it exists and has been established, there continue to be no conclusive findings or assessments available to the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG regarding the described facts that would suggest that a different assessment of the associated risks should have been made.

In August 2018, the control and profit and loss transfer agreement with MAN SE was terminated by extraordinary notice as of January 1, 2019. Following the announcement of the termination of the control and profit and loss transfer agreement and the recording thereof in the commercial register, the noncontrolling shareholders of MAN SE had the right to tender their shares to Volkswagen, pursuant to the provisions of the control and profit and loss transfer agreement, within a two-month period. This resulted in cash outflows of €1.1 billion in the first half of this year for the acquisition of shares tendered and compensation payments. There was a corresponding decline in the amount of put options and compensation rights granted to noncontrolling interest shareholders reported in the balance sheet. The put options granted to noncontrolling interest shareholders of MAN SE expired on March 4, 2019. The remaining liability of €0.7 billion was reclassified directly to equity; €0.3 billion of this amount is attributable to noncontrolling interests.

Since June 28, 2019, 51 million shares of TRATON SE have been traded on the regulated markets of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and of the Nasdaq Stockholm. The offer price was set at €27.00 per share. This led to an increase of €1.4 billion in the Volkswagen Group’s equity, of which €1.2 billion is reported as noncontrolling interests.

In the case of internally generated intangible assets with finite useful lives and the associated property, plant and equipment in the Passenger Cars Business Area, the individual product or product group has in the past represented the cash-generating unit. This had to be redefined for the Passenger Cars Business Area in the past fiscal year, because the cash flows generated by the individual products are not largely independent of each other any longer. In particular, the fact that emission regulations are being tightened worldwide means that the cash flows of the individual products influence each other to an increasing extent. As a consequence of the change in circumstances, the brands have, since the fourth quarter of 2019, normally been designated as cash-generating units in the Passenger Cars Business Area, thus forming the basis for impairment tests and profitability assessments when initially recognizing internally generated intangible assets. The changed definition of cash-generating units led to a non-recurring reversal of write-downs, which had an effect of €0.9 billion on other operating income in the fourth quarter of 2019 and will lead to increased depreciation and amortization in subsequent periods. Furthermore, impairment losses of €0.2 billion recognized in the first quarters of the fiscal year had to be reversed. In addition, the financial result benefited in an amount of €75 million from the reversal of impairment losses at the Chinese joint ventures. The revised definition of cash-generating units will in future lead to a slight increase in the capitalization ratio.