The number of new Volkswagen cars being registered in Germany has declined two months after the automaker's emissions cheating scandal first came to light. But VW still outsold the competition in its home market.
German car owners registered more new cars in November but fewer of them were Volkswagens, data from the country's federal transport authority KBA showed on Wednesday.
Of the 272,377 vehicles newly registered in Germany last month, 57,923 of them were from the Wolfsburg-based company. That was still a 21.3 percent chunk of the market, higher than any other carmaker, but it marked a 2 percent drop over October's numbers.
Volkswagen has been embroiled in its worst-ever crisis ever since it admitted to rigging the engines in 11 million of its vehicles sold around the world to emit more pollutants than regulations permitted.
Some observers fear that scandal, known colloquially as "dieselgate," will ultimately take a much bigger chunk out of the group's sales than was witnessed in November.
But it is not expected to have a very averse affect on Germany's car sector overall. The German automobile association VDA has said it expected sales of gas and diesel cars alike to rise.
The results for other brands under the Volkswagen banner came in mixed. Luxury carmaker Audi, which has admitted to manipulating more than 2 million vehicles, had 3 percent more new registrations in November, while Porsche sales dipped by 0.4 percent and SEAT sales were down by 3.2 percent. Skoda, however, logged a 13.3 percent increase.
However, the new registration numbers were all but overshadowed by a staff meeting for 20,000 of Volkswagen's workers at the main plant in Wolfsburg, northern Germany.
At the meeting, the influential VW shareholder Wolfgang Porsche said the carmaker must find a way to preserve jobs as the company looks to rebuild its reputation after its emissions scandals.
"Jobs are a very valuable asset," said Porsche, chairman of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, which holds a majority of VW stocks. In a statement released by VW's work council, Porsche said jobs were an asset that "mustn't be squandered."
But many worry that the emissions scandal will continue to drag down sales for months to come, ultimately leaving executives with no choice but to break out the axe. The approximately 7,000 temps working for VW's core brand look particularly vulnerable. According to the regional "Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung" daily, VW will not extend some 300 contracts set to expire by the end of this month. Another 500 temporary workers will only see their contracts extended by three months.
However, labor boss Bernd Osterloh on Wednesday insisted that these cutbacks were not related to the cheating crisis, but rather weak demand for VW's Amarok pick-up truck. In the first quarter of 2016, the works council chief said, even temporary jobs at the Wolfsburg plant would be safe. "We only hope that our customers will remain loyal," he added.
Also trying to calm wary VW workers, a company spokesman on Wednesday dismissed reports by business weekly "Wirtschaftswoche" that four of its German sites would shut down operations for four days this month in order to cut costs.
Still, no one in Wolfsburg believes VW has weathered the storm - at least not yet. "Nobody should bury their head in the sand," Wolfgang Porsche told the anxious crowd at Wednesday's meeting. But, he cautioned, "nobody should think that the emissions scandal will pass like a thunderstorm and afterwards fine weather will come again."
cjc/pad (Reuters, AFP, dpa)