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More automakers extend support as Covid-19 cases rise in India

Mumbai: From contributions to government relief funds to providing medical supplies and essentials to the needy, automakers have loosened their purse strings and announced several support measures towards fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

German luxury-car maker Mercedes announced that it will set up a 1,500-bed temporary hospital near Pune for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. The company also supported the Grant Medical Foundation (Ruby Hall Clinic) directly by donating ventilators.

Skoda Auto Volkswagen India, the Indian arm of the Volkswagen Group, on Wednesday pledged Rs 1 crore towards the setup of a dedicated Covid-19 facility at the Sassoon General Hospital in Pune. The company also announced that it will distribute sanitisers and food packets and will import medical supplies to India through its parent Volkswagen AG.

Earlier, Tata Group had pledged Rs 1,500 crore to the effort, one of the biggest sums donated so far.

Mahindra Group announced that it will help manufacture ventilators and other medical equipment. Mahindra and Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka also shared a video of a prototype ventilator developed by the company.

Bajaj Group pledged Rs 100 crore towards several relief measures. The funds are to be used to upgrade healthcare infrastructure in Pune hospitals, provide rural livelihood, and food and essential services to the needy.

The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki said that it will assist in the production of ventilators, masks and other protective equipment. Hyundai said that it will be importing testing kits from South Korea that would serve 25,000 inpiduals.

TVS Group pledged a sum of Rs 30 crore for providing 1 million masks, meals, and disinfectant vehicles.

Volkswagen takes on Tesla with first ID.4 electric models in China

SHANGHAI: Volkswagen AG launched two ID.4 electric sport-utility vehicle models in China on Tuesday, taking on Tesla Inc in the world’s biggest auto market.

The ID.4 CROZZ model is being made by Volkswagen’s joint venture with FAW Group, while the ID.4 X is produced by a separate venture with SAIC Motor.

The models mark the start of a major push by Volkswagen into the electric vehicle market in China to take on the likes of Tesla and Nio Inc.

The German group did not disclose the price of the two models. But a presentation at the product launch said the starting price of the SUVs, which are larger than Tesla’s China-made Model 3 sedans, would be less than 250,000 yuan ($37,450) after electric vehicle subsidies from the Chinese government.

The starting price for Model 3 sedans in China is currently 249,900 yuan, after subsidies.

The ID.4 models will have driving ranges of over 400 kilometers and offer over-the-air software updates, Volkswagen executives said at the event.

China chief Stephan Woellenstein said Volkswagen would roll out eight ID. family electric models in China by 2023.

Sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles in China are forecast to rise to 20% of new car sales by 2025 from just 5% now, the State Council said on Monday.

Around 1.1 million such vehicles are expected to be sold in China this year.

Volkswagen to seek dieselgate damages from former CEO Winterkorn and Audi boss Stadler

Volkswagen will claim damages from former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi boss Rupert Stadler over its diesel emissions scandal, the carmaker said on Friday, trying to draw a line under its biggest-ever crisis.

The German company said that following a far-reaching legal investigation it had concluded Winterkorn and Stadler had breached their duty of care, adding it had found no violations by other members of the management board.

Winterkorn and Stadler have both denied being responsible for the scandal.

Volkswagen in 2015 admitted using illegal software to rig diesel engine tests in the United States, sparking Germany’s biggest corporate crisis.

The scandal has cost the carmaker more than 32 billion euros ($38 billion) in fines, refits and legal costs.

Winterkorn resigned as CEO on Sept. 23, 2015, a week after the scandal broke.

About three years later, Volkswagen terminated Stadler’s contract as Audi CEO against the backdrop of a criminal investigation into whether he was involved in emissions cheating by the German group.

Volkswagen said the investigation it launched into the scandal, handled by law firm Gleiss Lutz, included the screening and review of 1.6 million files and more than 1,550 interviews and questionings.

“Both Prof. Winterkorn and Mr. Stadler accomplished great things with the Volkswagen Group … there is no question that the impressive achievements in their professional careers still stand,” Volkswagen’s supervisory board said in a note sent to staff on Friday.

“However, as successful as their work was, there were aspects that Prof. Winterkorn and Mr. Stadler as Group Board members did not monitor carefully enough,” it said in the note, seen by Reuters.

As a result, the company had decided to assert claims for damages against Winterkorn and Stadler on account of breaches of duty of care under stock corporation law, it said.

Winterkorn’s lawyers said in a statement the former CEO regretted the supervisory board’s decision and rejected the accusations against him.

“Mr Prof Dr Winterkorn is aware that the supervisory board is obliged to assess potential claims and to possibly assert them. He will therefore seek to clarify those questions in consultation with Volkswagen AG,” the statement said.

Stadler’s lawyers declined to comment.

Volkswagen concluded that Winterkorn had breached his duty of care by failing to fully and swiftly clarify circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions in some diesel engines sold in the North American market between 2009 and 2015.

In Germany, damage claims against former executives are rare but not uncommon. In 2009, former Siemens CEO and Chairman Heinrich von Pierer agreed to pay 5 million euros in a bribery scandal.