Dieselgate PHOTO Jon Worth

Car manufacturer Volkswagen (which means “the people’s car” in German) was founded in 1934 as a prestige project of Adolf Hitler to develop a cheap vehicle that could be used by the general population. The first car that it manufactured was the Beetle that was built by migrant workers from Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union as well as forced labor from concentration camps during World War II. Over the years, Volkswagen did business with the apartheid regime in South Africa as well as the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1964-1965, where it turned over trade unionists and suspected communist sympathizers to the police who then tortured them. The company has since agreed to compensate workers enslaved in Nazi Germany as well as victims of police torture in Brazil.

In recent years, Volkswagen has been forced to pay US$25 billion in fines, penalties, civil damages and restitution in the U.S. for the Dieselgate emissions scandal, after it secretly installed a “defeat” device into 11 million cars sold worldwide between 2008 and 2015 to make it appear that the vehicles did not exceed legal limits for pollution. This was despite the fact that some of the company’s cars were emitting up to 40 times greater than the maximum allowed for nitrogen oxide.


Cars, motorcycles, scooters, electric generators, water pumps, lawn and garden equipment, rotary tillers, outboard motors, robotics, jet aircraft, jet engines, solar cells


environment-related offenses$21,652,764,84567
consumer-protection-related offenses$4,100,012,0006
safety-related offenses$333,430,48820
government-contracting-related offenses$50,000,0001
employment-related offenses$10,568,17215

(January 4, 2024)

Number of Records
Total Penalties
$26,154,445,505 (January 4, 2024)
Individual Records & Summaries
Volkswagen Violation Tracker Profile
Information in this section is drawn from the Violation Tracker database produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First in Washington DC. It is the most comprehensive source of data on business violations of laws and regulations in the United States. For specific examples of misconduct, please click on the links.


Article Archive

EU fines Volkswagen, BMW $1 bln for emissions cartel

Published by
Marine Strauss & Alexander Hübner

[1/6]A Volkswagen logo is seen as it launches its ID.6 and ID.6 CROZZ SUV at a world premiere ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show, in Shanghai, China April 18, 2021.

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Brazil: Volkswagen will pay more than R$10 million in labor lawsuits

Published by

Value corresponds to 34 agreements approved by the Superior Labor Court; another 28 cases are under negotiation Disclosure/Volkswagen POWER360 August 22, 2023 (Tuesday) - 1:30 pm Volkswagen must pay R$10.5 million in settlement of 34 labor cases at the TST ( Superior Labor Court).

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UAW files unfair labor practice charges against Hyundai, Honda and Volkswagen

Published by
CBC News
Michael Wayland
  • The UAW has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen, the union said.
  • The union alleges management at facilities for the companies have participated in illegal “union-busting as workers organize to join the
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Overseer Faults Volkswagen’s Reform Efforts Since Emissions Scandal

Published by
The New York Times
Jack Ewing

FRANKFURT — Volkswagen’s attempt to remake its company culture and become more law abiding has received poor grades from the former United States prosecutor who is enforcing the carmaker’s compliance with a deal that settled emissions cheating charges.

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Videos & Podcasts
Germany: No more lies!- Activists protest in front of Volkswagen HQ
USA: Workers at subsidiary of Volkswagen protest against dismissal of 800 colleagues
USA; Greenpeace protest in front of VW headquarters
USA: VW vote to unionize fails
USA: Greenpeace activists storm Kent port to stop VW diesel car import
Volkswagen's diesel scandal, explained
Other Key Sources
  • Business and Human Rights Resource Centre's profile on Volkswagen - UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre is an NGO that employs researchers on five continents who work with activists, companies and governments alike to advance human rights in business by eradicating abuse.
  • Corporate Rap Sheet on Volkswagen - Corporate Rap Sheets, which detail corporate wrongdoing by some of the world's largest companies, are written by Philip Mattera, who heads the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First in the U.S.
  • Mirador's profile on Volkswagen - Mirador is a project of the Belgium-based NGO Research Group for an Alternative Economic Strategy (GRESEA), which monitors abuse carried out by the largest multinational corporations in Belgium and the world.


Recent & Ongoing Campaigns
USA: The UAW's decade-long fight to form a union at VW's Chattanooga plant

Amanda Aronczyk, Nick Fountain, Keith Romer, Willa Rubin | NPR | October 20, 2023

In this episode, we tell the story of the UAW's 10-year fight to unionize the Chattanooga plant. And, what other unions can learn from how badly that fight went for labor.

Germany: Climate protest at VW: activists try to stop production

RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland | August 14, 2023

On Monday, climate activists gained access to the VW plant in Wolfsburg as part of a group of visitors. The activists of the “Carfree Action” wanted to stick themselves to an assembly line and thus disrupt production.

Germany: Activists throw cake amid protest at Volkswagen meeting

DW | May 11, 2023

The climate change and human rights activists targeted Volkswagen executives at the German carmaker's AGM. One topless woman interrupted CEO Oliver Blume's speech with the words "Dirty Money" painted on her back.

Climate Activists in Germany Glued Themselves to the Volkswagen Showroom Floor

John Lopez | Tech Times | October 20, 2022

On Wednesday, Oct.19, climate protesters glued themselves to the Porsche pavilion floor at Volkswagen's Autostadt, joined by concerned researchers and environmental activists from an organization called Scientist Rebellion, to lobby their calls to decarbonize the German transportation sector.

USA: Police break up three-month protest outside VW dealership using Covid-19 regulations

James Baggot | Car Dealer Magazine | February 15, 2021

Two protesters who set up camp outside a VW dealership in London have been moved on by police using Covid-19 restrictions.

South Africa: Protest against dismissal of Volkswagen shop stewards

Thamsanqa Mbovane | GroundUp | February 3, 2021

About 30 members of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) protested outside Volkswagen South Africa’s main plant in Uitenhage on Wednesday morning.

South Africa: VW workers still seeking compensation after 20 years

Anna Majavuxx | Mail & Guardian | November 18, 2019

Hundreds of Eastern Cape auto workers are still fighting for compensation almost 20 years after Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) fired them for holding an unprotected strike.

German climate protesters block train carrying Volkswagen cars

DW | July 14, 2019

Dozens of climate protesters tied themselves to a train track in front of a freight train to protest the German government's 'failed climate policy.'

Anti-pollution activists stage protest at Volkswagen's UK headquarters

Matthew Taylor | The Guardian | August 20, 2018

Doctors and anti-pollution activists have blockaded the UK headquarters of Volkswagen as the campaign to highlight the country’s air pollution crisis gathers pace.

VW's Slovak workers strike over pay, halt production lines

Tatiana Jancarikova | Reuters | June 20, 2017

Volkswagen was hit by its first ever strike in Slovakia on Tuesday as workers began a walkout to demand a higher pay increase which could hurt the central European country's manufacturing output.

USA: Volkswagen fighting union vote at Tennessee plant | April 25, 2016

Volkswagen on Monday announced plans to appeal a National Labor Relations Board ruling that upheld a unionization vote among a portion of workers at the German automaker's lone U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee.

France: Paris Is Covered In Fake Ads That Mock the Climate Talks' Corporate Sponsors

George Dvorsky | Gizmodo | December 1, 2015

Brandalism says the 600 fake ads critique “the corporate takeover of the COP21 climate talks,” while exposing “the links between advertising, consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and climate change.” Major brands like Volkswagen, Air France, Total, Dow Chemicals, and GDF Suez were among the many companies targeted.

Major Investigations
& Lawsuits
Volkswagen scandal: Top German court rules automaker must pay 'dieselgate' compensation

Kristie Pladson | DW | May 25, 2020

Germany's top civil court has ruled against Volkswagen in the first case brought by a car owner against the automaker for emissions test cheating. The ruling sets a precedent for thousands more cases.

Germany: Volkswagen pulls ad, apologizes for racist overtones

DW | May 20, 2020

After being criticized for their first statement regarding the controversial ad, VW has issued a second apology. The commercial contained references to colonialism and appeared to show a racial slur.

Germany: Volkswagen settles emissions class action with three-quarters of claimants

Reuters | April 20, 2020

Volkswagen has reached settlements with 200,000 of the 260,000 claimants participating in a class action lawsuit brought by German consumer group VZBV over the carmaker's rigging of diesel emissions tests, the carmaker said on Monday.

Volkswagen takes one-two punch in Australia with fine, lawsuit

Reuters | December 19, 2019

Volkswagen AG took two raps in Australia on Friday as a court slapped a A$125 million ($86 million) fine on the German car maker as part of a global emissions cheating scandal and a regulator launched a civil lawsuit against a unit.

UK: Philadelphia and VW ads banned for gender stereotyping

BBC | August 14, 2019

Television advertisements from US food giant Mondelez and German carmaker Volkswagen are the first to be banned under new UK gender stereotyping rules.

Germany: Hitler and 'his Volkswagen'

Astrid Prange | DW | May 26, 2018

The VW Beetle has the Nazis to thank for its existence. Adolf Hitler laid the cornerstone of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg 80 years ago. Here, a critical retrospective of a German success story.

USA: How VW Paid $25 Billion for Dieselgate — And Got Off Easy

Roger Parloff | ProPublica | February 6, 2018

Volkswagen paid huge government penalties in the U.S., but virtually nothing in Europe. Two things now seem clear: Some very senior officials knew of the wrongdoing — and they’re not likely to face meaningful prison time.

USA: Six Volkswagen executives charged with fraud over emissions cheating

Kevin Rawlinson | The Guardian | January 11, 2017

Six former Volkswagen executives are being charged over their alleged roles in the 2015 emissions scandal, as the company admits liability and is ordered to pay a record $4.3bn (£3.5bn) penalty, US officials have said.

Germany: VW 'Dieselgate' software developed at Audi in 1999: report

Reuters | April 19, 2016

German carmaker Audi created so-called defeat devices which cut emissions in 1999, years before parent company Volkswagen used them to cheat diesel emissions tests, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Tuesday.

German state files criminal complaint after VW file disappears

Julia Löhr | The Guardian | October 21, 2015

The Volkswagen scandal has taken a new twist, as a file on the case mysteriously disappeared from the state chancellery of Lower Saxony, where the company has its headquarters.

Germany: VW Sex and Bribery Scandal: Sentences Handed Down in Corruption Affair

Der Spiegel | February 22, 2008

A German court convicted two senior Volkswagen executives on Friday in a bribery and corruption case at Europe's biggest car-maker. One executive is on his way to jail while another, who threw lavish sex parties for works council members, was also sentenced.

South Africa: Apartheid: Volkswagen Apologizes

Der Spiegel | July 31, 1994

The German automobile manufacturers, who for years maintained good contacts with the Apartheid regime for the benefit of their subsidiary "Volkswagen of South Africa" ​​and were criticized for this worldwide, now want to participate in economic and social development.

Environmental Impacts
The Volkswagen greenwashing scandal – and how to avoid it in your business carbon offsetting plans

Tabitha Whiting | Lune | June 15, 2022

Volkswagen is infamous in the climate world. But for all the wrong reasons. Their company offsetting was widely criticised as being nothing more than greenwashing – here's why.

'The Sacrifice Zone': Myanmar bears cost for green energy

Dake Kang, Victoria Milko & Lori Hinnant | AP News | August 9, 2022

[Rare earths] end up in the supply chains of some of the most prominent companies in the world, including General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Tesla and Apple. But an AP investigation has found that their universal use hides a dirty open secret in the industry: Their cost is environmental destruction, the theft of land from villagers and the funneling of money to brutal militias, including at least one linked to Myanmar’s secretive military government.

Germany: VW suspends media chief amid scandal over fume tests on monkeys

Kate Connolly | The Guardian | January 30, 2018

The carmaker Volkswagen has suspended its head of external relations and sustainability after admitting that he had known about experiments in which monkeys were locked in small chambers and exposed to diesel exhaust.

USA: VW executive given the maximum prison sentence for his role in Dieselgate

Sean O'Kane | The Verge | December 6, 2017

The man who was in charge of Volkswagen’s US environmental and engineering office before the Dieselgate scandal has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Oliver Schmidt had previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the US government in August for his role in Dieselgate, where VW was found to have used hidden software to hide the fact that many of its cars weren’t meeting emissions standards.

How Many Deaths Did Volkswagen’s Deception Cause in the U.S.?

John Schwartz | The New York Times | September 28, 2015

Volkswagen’s diesel deception unleashed tons of extra pollutants in the United States, pollutants that can harm human health. So while many commentators have been quick to say that the cheating engines are not a highway safety concern, safety — as in health — is still an issue.

Germany: Germanwatch Raises Complaint Against Volkswagen

Germanwatch | May 1, 2007

Germanwatch accuses the company of violating the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The guidelines are supposed to contribute to implementing corporate accountability - in the field of environmental protection amongst others -, and they provide multinational enterprises with detailed instructions on how to act.

Volkswagen of America, Inc. Agrees to Pay Over $1 Million for Clean Air Act Violation

U.S. Department of Justice | June 15, 2005

Under the agreement, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Volkswagen will pay $1.1 million to resolve its failure to promptly notify and correct a defective oxygen sensor affecting at least 326,000 of their 1999, 2000 and 2001 Golfs, Jettas, and New Beetles. This is the largest civil penalty to date for this type of violation.

Employment Practices
& Relations
Germany: Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes hit by Xinjiang forced labour complaint

Yuan Yang & Patricia Nilsson | Financial Times | June 20, 2023

On Tuesday, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a non-profit organisation based in Berlin, said it had filed a complaint with German regulators against Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz alleging their links with forced labour in China’s region of Xinjiang.

Brazil: Prosecutors' Office is investigating Volkswagen for slave labor

Nexo | May 31, 2022

The German company is accused of using slavery-like practices and human trafficking during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

Volkswagen to compensate workers over Brazil torture

BBC | September 24, 2020

German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) says it will pay $6.4m (£5m) in compensation to former workers at a Brazilian factory who sued the company for collaborating with the country's military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship.

USA: Volkswagen Agrees to Settle Age Discrimination Suit for $995K

Brianna Smith | Law Reader | February 7, 2020

Earlier this week, Volkswagen agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit for $995,000. The suit was filed by Volkswagen employees over allegations that a Chatanooga Volkswagen plant took part in age discrimination in its hiring and promotion procedures. 

USA: On Eve of Union Vote, Chattanooga VW Workers Describe Rampant Workplace Injuries

Chris Brooks | Labor Notes | June 11, 2019

“My co-workers are getting hurt, I’ve been hurt, there is constant threat of injury, and if it doesn’t change, none of us will survive,” said one worker who’s been at Volkswagen for eight years but asked to remain anonymous for fear of management retaliation.

Volkswagen CEO 'not aware’ of Uighurs detained in China’s Xinjiang, despite having a factory there

Rick Noack | The Washington Post | April 17, 2019

As a company rooted in Nazi Germany, German car manufacturer Volkswagen might be expected to have a somewhat more sensitive approach to ethics than its competitors.

USA: Volkswagen boss apologises for Nazi gaffe

Joe Miller | BBC | March 14, 2019

The chief executive of Volkswagen has apologised for evoking a Nazi slogan to describe the importance of boosting the group's profits. Herbert Diess used the line "Ebit macht frei" at a company event on Tuesday. The phrase echoes the maxim "Arbeit Macht Frei" - meaning "work sets you free" - which was famously emblazoned in wrought-iron on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

VW Chops Labor Costs in U.S.

Mike Ramsey | The Wall Street Journal | May 23, 2011

Volkswagen AG on Tuesday will celebrate the opening of a new Tennessee auto plant that gives the German auto maker much lower U.S. labor costs than not only its Detroit rivals but its Japanese competitors on American soil.

Germany: VW Presses for Increased Work Week at Same Pay

DW | June 13, 2006

Extending the work week from the current 28.8 hours to 35 without concomitant pay increases essentially amounts to a 20 percent pay reduction for workers.

South Africa: Interview with a South African Volkswagen worker: "Working conditions are worse now than they were under the apartheid regime"

Dietmar Henning & Andreas Kuckartz | World Socialist Web Site | April 29, 2000

Binisile Mzeku visited Germany at the end of March as part of a world-wide tour. Mzeku is one of 1,300 workers who have been fired by the Volkswagen works in Uitenhage, South Africa. Workers had gone on strike to protest the expulsion from the trade union of 13 factory representatives elected last year.

Germany: Volkswagen, in Shift, Will Set Up Fund for Slave Workers

The New York Times | July 8, 1998

In an abrupt reversal from a decision a month ago, Volkswagen A.G. has agreed to set up a fund to compensate workers who were forced into slave labor in World War II.

USA: Discrimination Suit Is Settled

The New York Times | April 19, 1989

Volkswagen of America Inc. has agreed to pay $670,000 and the United Auto Workers $48,000 to settle claims that they discriminated against black employees, a spokesman for the automaker said today.


Corporate Headquarters
Beuthener Str. 9, 38440 Wolfsburg, Germany
Most Recent Gross Revenue
US$293.83 billion (2022) | source
Most Recent Net Revenue
US$15.664 billion (2022) | source
Stock Exchange Tickers
Major Shareholders

Click here for the latest list.

Political Influence

Open Secrets - Tracks corporate lobbying of US politicians.

Open Secrets Logo Profile of Volkswagen


Investors turn to courts after VW withholds climate lobbying details

ClientEarth | October 19, 2022

Volkswagen AG is facing a legal action by institutional shareholders after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate lobbying.

Europe: Power of car industry lobby makes scandal inevitable

Corporate Europe Observatory | September 29, 2015

Volkswagen is by far the biggest spender, with almost €3.5 million spend in 2014, almost five times the spending of the biggest non-German manufacturer, Fiat-Chrysler (€700,000).

Subsidy Tracker
Subsidy Tracker
Subsidy Tracker is a project of Good Jobs First in Washington DC. It is the most comprehensive source of data on state and federal subsidies in the United States. For more details, click on the links.
Click here for details of subsidies received by Volkswagen
Tax Havens
& Evasion
USA: Ex-VW CEO to face charges of organised commercial fraud

Reuters | September 15, 2020

Former Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn will face charges of conspiracy to commit organised commercial fraud with a high likelihood of conviction, a court probing the carmaker's diesel emissions scandal said on Wednesday.

Auto giant Volkswagen caught in Luxembourg tax scheme

Der Spiegel, Blaz Zgaga (Nacional), EIC Network | October 27, 2017

The chairman of the supervisory board of Volkswagen (VW), Hans Dieter Poetsch, has an aversion to big corporations using offshore tax schemes.

German prosecutors launch tax evasion probe at Volkswagen

Reuters | November 24, 2015

German prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected tax evasion in connection with cheating on emissions tests by Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, adding to the intense scrutiny of Europe's biggest carmaker.

Major Projects
Germany: New electric vehicle plant in Wolfsburg: Justified protest

Marco Frundt | TAZ | September 29, 2022

The environmental activists want to “bring social and ecological struggles together,” he says. Not only climate activists not only protested against the construction of the "Trinity" plant, but also residents and agricultural workers, who did not want a 130-hectare concrete area in front of their door.

USA: Volkswagen’s required $800-million investment in California draws criticism

Chris Megerian | LA Times | April 6, 2017

Unlike other penalties that Volkswagen must pay, the company has more control over how the $800 million will be spent, and it’s allowed to profit from the charging stations it’s required to install.

Germany: When Porsche once wanted to take over Volkswagen

Annika Grah | DW | July 23, 2019

It was a coup that legendary Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking landed when he took over Volkswagen. In the end everything turned out differently. The case still occupies the courts in Stuttgart and Wolfsburg to this day.

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