Cloud over VW

(Image/The Guardian)

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday as the German automaker reels from the emissions cheating scandal fallout.

His successor will likely be appointed Friday.

Winterkorn denied involvement in or knowledge of the intentional use of software in 11 million Volkswagen diesel cars designed to trick emissions regulators. That was echoed by Volkswagen’s executive committee. The committee said to expect “further personnel consequences in the next few days” as the internal investigation continues into how this happened. The committee said it will submit a criminal complaint to German prosecutors regarding the company’s actions.

The cheating scandal was made public last Friday when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the discovery of sophisticated software which allowed about 482,000 diesel-powered VW cars from various vehicle models from 2009-15 to pass Clean Air Act standards in the United States despite emitting pollutants up to 40 times the federal threshold.

Martin Winterkorn

Martin Winterkorn

Volkswagen AG shares fell 18 percent Monday—the first day of trading after news of the scandal broke—and an additional 20 percent Tuesday. Volkswagen-owned Porsche also saw its stock plummet by 17 percent.

In total, VW lost a third of its market value (more than $25 billion) since Friday and also faces criminal investigations in the United States and potential fines as high as $18 billion.

“We have totally screwed up,” said Michael Horn, VW’s U.S. chief executive, on Monday. “Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you.”

Winterkorn, 68, has held the top job at Volkswagen since 2007.

Volkswagen’s executive committee praised Winterkorn for his service, crediting his leadership for the company’s rise to being the world’s largest automaker (Volkswagen passed Toyota in global sales in the first half of 2015).

Earlier this week, Winterkorn promised the company would regain public trust through hard work and transparency.

“At present we do not yet have all the answers to all the questions,” Winterkorn said in a press conference. “But we are working hard to find out exactly what happened. To do that, we are putting everything on the table, as quickly, thoroughly, and transparently as possible.

The Detroit Free-Press, Bloomberg, and USA Today contributed to this report.

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Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.