That’s fundamentally still the case. Even if there’s still the appetite amongst VW’s Supervisory Board for yet another brand in the portfolio - and that’s a huge if - the Group may well decide that now is not the time to take a risk on a project with wafer-thin profit margins. Perhaps, they may reason, it makes more sense to focus on making money from the second generation of the Up, Mii and Citigo city cars - a project that is widely judged to have been a financial failure to date.
Next-generation Phaeton: Put aside for one moment the fact that the first Phaeton - the pet project of Ferdinand Piech - has been in red ink on the VW budget sheet for pretty much all of its 12 years (only saved in recent times by sales in China). And let’s not quibble over the fact that the next one would probably do the same, even though it’s due to be based on the more cost-effective MLB platform.
No, the real reason why Volkswagen won’t want to launch a new luxury saloon any time soon is that right now, it desperately needs to get back to its roots and appear humble again. The VW badge has always struggled to justify its place on a £60,000 saloon - and that awkwardness has been compounded by the dieselgate crisis. We’d expect this one to be postponed indefinitely - or even shelved altogether.
Bugatti: The idea of having €1m-plus hypercar brand in your line-up when you’re desperate to appear humble in the eye of the wider public is an awkward one - and it’s no surprise, therefore, that the future of Bugatti has already been called into question in the German media. In a way, it’s a wonder that it’s taken so long; respected industry analysts at Bernstein Research once suggested that the VW Group lost around £4m on every Bugatti Veyron sold.
You’d like to think that the forthcoming Chiron may stand a better chance of bringing in some cash - if only because it’s essentially based on the same platform, and will presumably have cost a bit less to develop. But such are the small numbers involved at the Bugatti plant at Molsheim that the VW Group could easily postpone the new model for a year or 18 months, keep staff ticking over with maintenance on the existing Veyrons and save a bit of PR embarrassment. Some wilder speculation has even suggested that the Bugatti brand - complete with a near-ready Chiron - could be one of the easier elements to sell off if VW decides to break off chunks of its group.
Bugatti may not be a lost cause, though. It may prove significant that the brand has been brought in under the wing of Porsche in the VW Group’s newly created ‘sport’ division. And of course, Bugatti’s biggest ally of all - Dr Ferdinand Piech - waited only one day after the departure of his arch-rival Martin Winkerkorn before popping back into VW HQ in Wolfsburg. His influence over the future of the VW Group’s pinnacle luxury brand could prove pivotal in the weeks ahead.
Motorsport: The VW Group’s three major motorsport programmes are two World Endurance Championship campaigns for Audi and Porsche, and the World Rally Championship with Volkswagen. Porsche remains largely untainted by the diesel gate crisis, so its WEC effort should be safe enough. Audi, meanwhile, contributes 40% of the VW Group’s revenues - so the much-rumoured switch to F1 - funded by a mix of Middle Eastern investors and Red Bull - could still occur (it’s not expected to happen until 2018 anyway).
The WRC is probably under the greatest threat: VW has already won three world titles in a row with Sebastien Ogier, and while the WRC itself has listened to manufacturers and included a new round in all-important China for 2016, it has also extended the calendar to accommodate the new event instead of replacing one of the less attractive rounds. More rounds mean more costs in logistics - and it’s also worth remembering that VW has to spend huge amounts of cash just reminding the public that it’s in the WRC at all, because the series still struggles to get proper television coverage.