Thursday, September 24, 2015 12:40 am
Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday over a pollution cheating scandal that has sparked a US criminal investigation and worldwide legal action with unfathomable financial consequences for the auto giant.
“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group,”Winterkorn said in a statement issued by the carmaker.
“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.
“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.
“I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life. ”
The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.” The stock market barely flinched at the news.
Following a two-day free fall that had axed 35 percent — or 25 billion euros ($28 billion) — off the company’s market value on Monday and Tuesday, the shares had bounced back on Wednesday closing 5.19 percent higher at 111.50 euros after Winterkorn’s announcement.
Even if the haemorrhage on the markets may have abated, Volkswagen, the world’s largest auto manufacturer by sales in the first half of this year, still faces a growing tangle of legal threats after it admitted that as many as 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide are equipped with software capable of fooling official pollution tests.
In addition to investigations from France to South Korea, public prosecutors in Germany also said they were examining information and evaluating legal suits already filed against the company by a number of private individuals to decide whether to launch a full criminal inquiry against those responsible at VW.
Volkswagen has admitted that as many as 11 million cars are equipped with software capable of foolin …
A day after Winterkorn had offered his “deepest apologies”, the 68-year-old said he accepted his “responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines”.
But he also insisted: “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.”
His widely predicted departure came after a meeting of the supervisory board’s six-member steering committee in Wolfsburg.
A new chief executive is to be named Friday, and other personnel changes were expected, the board said.
According to the US authorities, VW has admitted that it equipped about 482,000 cars in the United States with sophisticated software that covertly turns off pollution controls when the car is being driven.
It turns them on only when it detects that the vehicle is undergoing an emissions test.
With the so-called “defeat device” deactivated, the car can spew pollutant gases into the air, including nitrogen oxide, in amounts as much as 40 times higher than emissions standards, said the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The US Department of Justice has also launched a criminal inquiry led by its environment and natural resources division, a source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The California Air Resources Board, too, is investigating Volkswagen’s pollution violations.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he had launched his own probe of Volkswagen and would work on it with prosecutors from other states across the United States.
Private law firms are lining up to take on the German company, with a class action suit already being filed by a Seattle law firm.
VW has halted all diesel vehicles sales in the United States during the investigations.
The full impact on the reputation of Volkswagen, which was founded in 1930 to build an affordable family car, is hard to measure.