What Did Volkswagen's CEO Know?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
what did volkswagen s ceo know

The first rumblings of an approaching crisis reached the highest levels of Volkswagen management in May 2014, but how much knowledge then-CEO Martin Winterkorn had of the looming diesel emissions scandal is still debatable.

It’s debatable because Winterkorn should have known about the initial study that raised red flags with environmental regulators — he was presented with a memo detailing the situation — but to this day Volkswagen can’t say if he even read it.

Later, the matter was discussed in the vicinity of Winterkorn … but Volkswagen doesn’t know if his ears picked up the dialogue.

When Volkswagen dropped a detailed document on March 2, it began by refuting the basis of a proposed shareholder lawsuit against the company. The automaker complied with capital markets laws, Volkswagen assured the army of potential litigators. There had been no knowledge of anything that could severely impact the company’s stock price, it said, arguing that the diesel issue was a relatively minor matter prior to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Notice of Violation.

Winterkorn’s job was an CC BY 3.0]/ Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Thejohnnycanuck Thejohnnycanuck on Mar 03, 2016

    The best part is the longer this whole sordid affair drags on the more likelihood of VWoA disappearing altogether. Every time another marque blows past them their relevance diminishes even further. By the way Mazda will be next to take them down another notch. So after all the inevitable billions in fines are tallied up at what point is it simply no longer feasible to sell VWs in North America? Audi meanwhile has come out of this virtually unscathed. And as they continue to move down market the business case for VW becomes even more cloudy. As for Winterkorn who gives a damn what the old dinosaur knew or didn't know. By every account he was a tyrant. They're better off without him.

    • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Mar 04, 2016

      Sordid affairs usually drag on. Reason? Those to be held accountable, if not immediately and overwhelmingly demonstrated to have committed, or been caught in, the act, then there is a process whereby prosecutors have to hunt for facts and evidence both to flesh-out the story and to substantiate the supposed guilt. Often documentary evidence has been hidden, destroyed, or not created (as in "Vieraugengesprache", the famous "discussion under 4 eyes").

  • Motormouth Motormouth on Mar 04, 2016

    I think Winterkorn and other execs knew what was going on. His background is in engineering and this must have been one of his key interests. I still find it mind-boggling that they elected to use the defeat system instead of simply developing a new engine which could use the urea system. For somewhere between EUR1 billion and EUR2 billion - not exactly chump change, but not excessive in the wider picture - they would've had a diesel engine for the next decade (or more) and the VW Group would still be the golden boy of the automotive world. I get the impression that in their hubris, VW thought they could do no wrong, but it all came back to bite them in the ass in a massive reality check.

  • Lou_BC Tassos and EB can each buy one and go in the backcountry to play with their Willys.
  • SCE to AUX Physically removing it from the cars they service tells me the company sees radar as some sort of hazard, despite their ability to disable it across the fleet via OTA updates. Creepy.
  • Art Vandelay So if it now actually costs less than the competition, where will the usual haters move the goalposts too now?
  • SCE to AUX Change "dog" to "child", and then tell me what mfr's lawyers will permit deployment of an autonomous vehicle.
  • Ravenuer I'd go with the Camry.