WOLFSBURG, Germany -- Top Volkswagen executives had spent hours March 14 trying to convince a global audience of journalists and analysts here that VW was "back on track" after its three-year diesel scandal.
The company had already modified more than 4 million cars of the 11 million vehicles affected globally to make them comply with local emissions standards and was processing another 200,000 diesel vehicles per week. It had even returned to profitability and declared a dividend, CEO Matthias Mueller declared through a translator.
But the track VW returned to was incredibly short.
Legal actions last week in both Germany and the U.S. show that while VW may be eager to move on, prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic are just getting warmed up.
On March 15, in a major escalation, German prosecutors raided offices at both Volkswagen and subsidiary Audi, as well as the offices of the law firm conducting the company's internal diesel emissions investigation.
And the next day, VW executive Oliver Schmidt learned he may spend more than a full year behind bars -- held without bond as an extreme flight risk -- before he stands trial in the U.S. on 11 felony counts for his alleged role in the company's conspiracy to cheat on diesel emissions tests. Schmidt's trial, originally scheduled to begin in April, was postponed until Jan. 16, 2018.
All these events took place less than a week after VW pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit to three felonies in a criminal settlement of its actions to cheat on diesel emissions testing. The sentencing phase of the settlement -- which initially limited VW's potential exposure to $4.3 billion in fines and penalties -- is now being reviewed by Judge Sean Cox, who intends to rule on its merits next month.