Diesel sales declined 19.3% in Germany in April. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Diesel sales declined 19.3% in Germany in April. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Frankfurt am Main — The CEO of Volkswagen (VW), the world’s largest car maker, said on Tuesday that he was convinced of a comeback for diesel motors, two-and-a-half years after the firm admitted to emissions cheating on a massive scale.

"I don’t only hope that diesel won’t be talked to death, I am convinced that diesel is experiencing a renaissance," Matthias Müller told journalists in Berlin.

While the car maker is engaged in a massive push to develop new electric and hybrid models, "we will create the technical conditions for existing drive concepts and electric vehicle concepts to co-exist", he added.

Over the coming five years, VW plans to spend more than €34bn on research and development and investments in its range of future projects, from electric cars to autonomous driving.

But the same time period will see the group pump more than €90bn into traditional diesel, petrol and natural gas engines, with a new generation of internal combustion engines set for release in 2019.

"We are investing strongly in tomorrow’s mobility, but without neglecting the current technologies and vehicles that will continue to play an important role for decades," Müller said.

Diesel’s market share in Germany has slumped to just 33% since September 2015, when Volkswagen admitted to cheating regulators’ tests for harmful emissions on 11-million vehicles worldwide.

Fall-out from the scandal cost it €3.2bn in 2017, it said in February, but did not hold it back from booking €11.4bn in profit — about the same level as the year before "dieselgate" became public.

The "diesel issue", as the group labels it, remains one of the group’s top four challenges for the year ahead.

Meanwhile, VW finance chief Frank Witter told journalists on Tuesday that the group "takes very seriously" protectionist threats from US President Donald Trump.

Planned tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium to the world’s largest economy would only have a "negligible" effect on VW, Witter said.

However, "there are still other tariff questions being discussed", Witter recalled, in a reference to Trump’s declaration that he would tax car imports from Germany if the EU responded in kind to his border levies.

"It’s important for dialogue to be maintained and for there to be no ‘arms race’, [because] I believe in that case there will only be losers," Witter said.