VW Korea chief tells dealers he’s committed to market

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VW Korea chief tells dealers he’s committed to market

With national sentiment turning against Volkswagen for its emissions rigging scandal and a series of unsatisfactory recall proposals that have been rejected by the Ministry of Environment, Volkswagen Korea has issued a written apology to dealers to quell their swelling fears.

In a letter, Volkswagen Korea CEO Thomas Kuehl told dealers on Thursday that the carmaker will strive to maintain a strong presence in the domestic market although times are difficult. The company also vowed to propel business plans, and said that after- services will also continue. It emphasized that its German headquarters considers Korea to be an important market.

There is much speculation that VW will withdraw from the Korean market due to the government considering harsh punitive measures, including cancelling certifications for cars that had phony emissions tests, enforcing recalls and even banning sales. The ministry has begun crosschecking the findings from the prosecution and the original certification documents submitted to the government for each suspected models.

The company faces a hearing from authorities on July 25.

Although over the last 10 years VW has sold some 250,000 cars in the nation, many domestic consumers think that the German company is taking an unrepentant stance here, because it has yet to offer a concrete plan to compensate wronged customers for its long-term business malpractice.

Outside of Korea, Volkswagen is offering to pay up to $15 billion to U.S. drivers to settle claims. The United States has a punitive compensation law, but in Korea, it is almost nonexistent. While complaints from car dealers owning Audi and Volkswagen cars have flooded into the automaker, it maintained on Monday that it is hard to respond until the government announces a clear position on penalties.

Accumulated sales by the automaker for the first six months of the year plummeted 33.1 percent year-on-year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. The association said it was the biggest decline among imported car brands in Korea.

BY LEE DONG-EUN [lee.dongeun@joongang.co.kr]
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