Volkswagen cheated emissions tests with about 2.8 million diesel vehicles in its home country of Germany, the company’s transport minister said Friday.
That’s about six times as many cars as the 482,000 the embattled automaker admitted to rigging in the United States last week after the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off a global firestorm for Volkswagen and the auto industry with its public announcement that the world’s largest automaker had intentionally and systematically installed software designed to cheat emissions testing.
Volkswagen diesel cars were polluting up to 40 times the government-mandated threshold in real-world driving conditions in the United States and Europe.
The fallout has been enormous. Volkswagen lost a third of its value (more than $22 billion) in less than a week, and is facing untold fines and litigation in the United States, and perhaps from many countries. At least 11 million Volkswagen vehicles have the illegal software installed, the company admitted. In the U.S. alone, Volkswagen could theoretically be fined $18 billion for violating the Clean Air Act, though industry watchers speculate the fines aren’t likely to reach that level given the precedent set by the government’s handling of recent fines for General Motors and Toyota. GM settled with the Department of Justice for $900 million even though 124 deaths were directly linked to faulty ignition switches GM engineers knew about. Toyota settled for $1.2 billion after some Toyota cars were found to have both sticky gas pedals and a vulnerability to gas pedal entrapment with certain floor mats.
Porsche CEO Matthias Muller has been tapped to replace Martin Winterkorn, who resigned as Volkswagen CEO on Wednesday, and will immediately become the public face of VW as it attempts to repair its tarnished image around the globe.
U.S. CEO Michael Horn will keep his job, according to Jalopnik.
More senior executives, including the top engineers at both Audi and Porsche (both owned by Volkswagen), will be purged Friday, according to Reuters.
Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Harvard Business Review contributed to this report.