Following the second earthquake to be felt on national soil this week, Autoeuropa – the VW car manufacturing plant in Palmela – has been described as “the epicentre of the investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the Volkswagen group in Portugal”.
It is a dramatic way to describe a turn of events which only last month was deemed absolutely out of the question.
Economy minister Pires de Lima assured journalists that “none of the cars produced in Portugal were fitted with the fraudulent default software” a few weeks ago.
Now Dinheiro Vivo website reveals that “police sources” have “confirmed that the Palmela factory is in the eye of Portuguese authorities”.
The plant could be cited for the “crimes of fraud and pollution”, claims the website – stressing that “officially” nothing has been fully explained.
Autoeuropa has refused to comment, as has the plant’s workers commission.
Commission spokesperson António Choro “had been surprised” at the beginning of October, “when it was revealed that the models Eos, Scirocco and Sharan, coming out of Palmela were fitted with the fraudulent emissions software”, wrote DV – particularly after Pires de Lima had gone on record saying that they weren’t.
Choro affirmed – possibly by way of mitigation – that all engines “fitted in Autoeuropa’s vehicles came from Germany”,
DV has summed up the situation up saying: “Portugal has thus joined the list of countries investigating the Volkswagen group. The US, China, Germany, Spain, France and Italy are other states which have been investigating the Wolfsburg car manufacturer”.
Meantime, the scandal is forcing VW to throttle back on at least a billion euros worth of investment programmes throughout Europe, and cut back on staff.
In Germany, the State faces a loss of at least €3 billion in taxes over the next two years, says DV – and that is before the scandal is quantified on a Europe-wide basis.
In Palmela, fingers are tightly crossed that a long-promised €700 million upgrade will in fact go ahead.
Despite government assurances that everything is on track at the plant that produces 468 cars a day, workers have told journalists that they don’t know who to believe any more.
“We’ll believe it when we see it”, one told national tabloid Correio da Manhã, while Jornal de Negocios describes a “barrier of silence” which suggests there are “uncertain aspects” of the deal.