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Audi LeMans Racing Effort May Be The Latest Victim of VW’s Dieselgate Scandal

The effect of the Dieselgate scandal continues to be felt throughout Volkswagen. The latest victim is apparently Audi racing whose diesel-based entry in the World Endurance Championship will likely be yanked starting in 2017.

Dieselgate just keeps on bumping into things in the house called Volkswagen. And, it looks like the latest victim may be Audi’s commitment to the 24 Hours of LeMans and similar enduros. The German motoring publication Auto Motor und Sport, quoting sources at the automaker’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, hinted that the 2017 campaign might be its last. Audi has been a dominant force in endurance racing for more than two decades, the Auto CheatSheet pointed out Friday.

Audi has based its winning ways on diesel technology. However, that is no longer viable in an automaker that has admitted it has cheated on diesel emissions tests. Instead, the automaker is turning to electric automotive technology. The inevitable result of the change, it seems, is that diesel isn’t welcome at headquarters, anymore.

Audi Changes Series

So, instead of the usual slate of endurance races, Audi has plans to enter the Formula E Championship for 2017. Because it is an electric car series, the automaker plans to reallocate a substantial amount of its racing budget to Formula E.

Tied in with the reallocation is the fact that Volkswagen, as a company, has committed to making significant cost-cutting and savings measures so that it can help to weather the storm that has been created by Dieselgate. To date, the U.S. portion of the scandal has cost more than $16.5 billion. Though there is a major hearing on the Dieselgate class-action suit settlement that has been worked out in San Francisco Tuesday that settles the civil portion of the scandal, there remain substantial parts of the automaker’s troubles to be worked out.

The pieces include ending the Justice Department’s criminal investigation and finding a settlement for the 100,000 or so V-6 diesel engines that have not been addressed by the class-action suit settlement. Like as not, there will be some buyback plan and compensation for V-6 owners, though that has yet to be firmly determined. A fix, if it is acceptable to regulators and owners, may also be part of this piece of Dieselgate.

Then there are criminal probes in Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and India that must be settled. There are also the costs of the ongoing fixes that have been and will be installed in VW diesels in Europe. A fix has been approved by regulators in the European Community.

Facing all of these potential drains on its resources, VW has been cutting back, severely in some cases. There have been reports that up to 20,000 or more workers could be laid off as a result of the scandal. With all of this going on – and the new racing program – having the World Endurance Championship series around can’t be supported by the automaker.

New VW Racing Powerhouse

Another major issue, opines the CheatSheet, is another VW brand that is becoming the powerhouse of the World Endurance Championship, Porsche. The automaker joined the fray in 2014. Following its premier in the LMP1 Hybrid class, Porsche has gone on to become the reigning champion. It is also leading the 2016 season.

Porsche is that it is not using diesel at all, which is a feather in the cap of the automaker. Though still a hydrocarbon-burning solution, Porsche is campaigning cars that use a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. It is definitely in keeping with the automaker's upcoming product strategy – electric.

What better time to withdraw from the LeMans series campaign? Facing the constraints imposed by Dieselgate as well as regulation changes that will impact Audi’s LMP1 race car for 2018, the rumored withdrawal makes sense. More compelling is the fact that the new rules will mean that Audi’s LMP1 race car faces a costly, significant redesign, something that isn’t in the cards.

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20,000 out of 650,000 employees?? You think that's news people care about... In a 35 year average career that's how many will naturally retire. How about the fact that endurance racing might be changing from liquid fuel to ionic fuel? If you weren't so focused on your beloved Subaru and could see above the trees, you might realize that this story has a lot more potential than simply more VW muckraking...
VW is my automotive beat for Torque News as is Hyundai. Subaru is covered by another reporter. Also, if you look at the story closely, you will see that it mentions the shift in resources away from diesel -- a natural direction for a company that has been burned by its own actions -- and onto the Electric Series. That move supports the automaker's decision to change its product focus to a heavy proportion of electric vehicles. Battery tech is one of the growing areas of research for all manufacturers and, honestly, it is still in its beginning stages, although, quite frankly, electric cars have been around for more than a century. At that time, the most successful vehicle was the Baker Electric. Its Achilles Heel was the primitive lead-acid battery available at the time. Today, there are many, many alternatives that are expanding. With that said, there are also other exciting technologies on the horizon that will be reported on as they come about and as VW looks into them.