Volkswagen rolls out conduct plan amid growing legal trouble

The five-part plan places the customer atop the group's priority list, followed by uncovering those responsible for its diesel emissions scandal and decentralizing the company's management structure.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
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2015 VW Golf TDI

Repairs for Volkswagen engines fitted with the emissions-test defeat device will begin in January, the automaker says.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Volkswagen plans to begin fixing the diesel engines installed on recalled vehicles in January, in Germany, at least.

That announcement was included in a five-point plan released Wednesday by Matthias Müller, CEO of the German automaker. The plan reorganizes the way the company conducts business around the world and addresses the carmaker's diesel emissions scandal as it faces an onslaught of vehicle recalls and court proceedings.

Volkswagen is entangled in a web of its own making after admitting in September to cheating on diesel emissions tests using software hidden on its vehicles. Installed on some 11 million TDI models around the world, the defeat device allowed Volkswagen's cars to spew nitrous oxide emissions -- a cause of smog -- well in excess of legal limits. The automaker has vowed to fix every affected vehicle, likely using a variety of remedies ranging from inexpensive software flashes to costly hardware retrofits.

"Our customers are at the core of everything that our 600,000 employees worldwide do," Müller said in a statement that listed the company's top priority as supporting customers affected by the scandal. The automaker's second priority is to complete its investigation of the scandal and identify those who perpetrated the use of defeat devices, adding that they face "severe consequences."

The third point expands upon earlier moves, such as giving each region and brand more autonomy. Volkswagen's appointment of a North American boss, however brief, was one of the first steps in that direction. This point also says the automaker will "review in detail our current portfolio of more than 300 models and examine the contribution that each one makes to our earnings." Volkswagen is likely to shave a few models from its lineup, especially when the full financial weight of the scandal becomes apparent.

Points four and five require much more time to bring to fruition. Müller wants to change VW's corporate culture. While the "pursuit of perfection ... and social responsibility" remain, the CEO called for "a culture of openness and cooperation." Lastly, Volkswagen's pushing its Strategy 2018 plan back to 2025. The 2018 plan defined four goals for the company to reach by that year, including sales in excess of 10 million vehicles per year and an 8 percent return on pre-tax sales. Strategy 2025 will be explained in greater detail later next year.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen's legal troubles continue to grow, according to Reuters. India is weighing whether to recall some 100,000 diesel vehicles, including the Volkswagens Vento, Jetta, Passat, Polo and Polo Cross. In Spain, the country's public prosecutor is bringing the automaker to court over allegations of fraud and crimes against the environment.