On the official agenda Thursday: An update on the "clarification process concerning the diesel issue and the realignment of the group."
The latter point speaks for itself. The Supervisory board announced alongside Mueller's appointment that it would restructure the group into new brand units -- an organization that was originally designed under former CEO Martin Winterkorn. But what that actually means in practice, whether more management changes will be announced and what steps VW will take to become a more agile and efficient corporate behemoth will be among top concerns in the crowd.
There is also the question of who will lead the newly combined North American market after former Skoda Chairman Winfred Vahland resigned just weeks after his appointment.
The diesel issue leaves more room for interpretation considering VW is now confronting a three-pronged crisis aimed at clarifying solutions for the following:
- The original 11.1 million vehicles with E189 engines
- An understatement of CO2 emissions in certain diesel and gasoline powered cars
- The near-90,000 3-litre V6 engines in some Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles with emissions controls that the US Environmental Protection Agency classifies as an additional "defeat device." VW has acknowledged these devices exist but insists they were not installed with a "forbidden purpose." This has begged the question among industry-watchers as to why they were there in the first place.
Given the CO2 question has to some extent been answered, the fix-and-recall plan for the E189 engines in the United States, where engineers face more stringent nitrous oxide (NOX) emission standards remains the most pressing matter. Some analysts speculate that the relatively low-cost fix getting the green light in Europe will not comply with US standards, raising the multibillion-dollar question over whether a technical solution is even possible.
If not, VW will be under pressure to lay out a comprehensive strategy for compensating drivers, dealers and fleet owners. If that involves vehicle buybacks, management will need to come clean on a worst-case cost scenario, to avoid further uncertainty.
To date, Volkswagen has set aside 8.7 billion euros ($9.52 billion) to cover the diesel and carbon issues: 2 billion euros of which was tied to CO2 discrepancies and will likely be revised lower. Analyst estimates of the total cost from recalls, engine fixes, fines and lawsuits have ranged from 20 billion euros - 78 billion euros. The carmaker is currently sitting on a cash pile of around 28 billion euros. But whatever the revised provisions unveiled tomorrow, if any, Ellinghorst expects a move toward greater transparency to be positive for the stock.