Six months into 'Dieselgat' scandal, gloom deepens in VW's hometown

Sun Mar 20, 2016 10:26am EDT
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(This March 18 report corrects wording of second paragraph as not all workers at VW's Wolfsburg plant live in the town)

By Andreas Cremer

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - When Martin Winterkorn dropped by to order some new glasses in the Volkswagen company town of Wolfsburg, he was "visibly dejected", according to his optician. But the visit wasn't last September, when Winterkorn had just quit as the German carmaker's chief, it was this week.

Six months into the "Dieselgate" affair surrounding VW, the mood in Wolfsburg - where a workforce equal to almost half the town's population is employed at its giant car factory - is as gloomy as Winterkorn's, and shows little sign of recovering.

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) remains mired in the scandal over its rigging of U.S. exhaust emissions tests, facing a barrage of lawsuits and grappling with a stalled German vehicle recall.

With workers fearing for their jobs and the dive in VW's fortunes hitting Wolfsburg's municipal finances, few people see any light at the end of the tunnel.

This appeared to include 68-year-old Winterkorn when he visited optician Ehme de Riese on March 14.

"Winterkorn was visibly dejected," de Riese told Reuters. "He is haunted by the question of what will happen to his life's work and to the Volkswagen company."

Winterkorn was on a fleeting visit - de Riese said the engineer has moved to Munich since the scandal ended his long career at the firm which has its headquarters in Wolfsburg.   Continued...

File photo of the embellished VW logo on a Volkswagen car in Hanau, Germany November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files