By on July 6, 2016


There’s a good chance that the former managing director of Audi Volkswagen Korea will soon find himself pleading for a sip of Coke during the 11th hour of a grueling interrogation process.

Park Dong-hoon, now CEO of Renault Samsung Motors, was recently identified as a suspect in South Korea’s investigation into the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, according to Wards Auto. That means a date with the “VIP Suite.”

No, there isn’t champagne and members of the fairer sex pretending to be moderately interested in what you do for a living. The room inside the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office is where white-collar suspects in South Korea go for questioning, which can last up to 12 hours. A prison cell is nearby in case prosecutors want to quickly pick up where they left off the day before.

Park ran Volkswagen’s Korean importing operations from 2005 to 2013. Initially called into the VIP Suite this week as a material witness, prosecutors quickly labelled him a suspect, meaning he can expect another date with the room on July 8.

According to Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, “Seoul Prosecutors suspect the German head office was aware of problems regarding the emissions of vehicles equipped with Euro 5 EA189 diesel engines, based on emails transacted between the local unit and headquarters from 2010 to 2011.”

The 63-year-old executive told media that he was unaware of the defeat device-equipped diesel engines while at the helm.

Korean Volkswagen and Audi sales rose exponentially after he took the post — volume went from under 1,000 units before he arrived to over 30,000 when he left the company a decade later. Thanks to the scandal, sales are now sliding fast. June sales were 57.6 percent lower than the same month in 2015.

German authorities have their own grilling to do. Prosecutors in Volkswagen’s home country singled out ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn and brand chief Herbert Diess as suspects in the scandal.

[Image: SalFalco/Flickr]

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24 Comments on “South Korean Prosecutors Really Know How to Make Auto Execs Sweat...”

  • avatar

    I think at this point, investing in VW or buying a VW car is like buying a stock where the CEO just got arrested for falsifying the books for the last few years. Maybe there’s a killer deal to be had, maybe they’re on a one-way trip into bankruptcy, and it’s really hard to tell.

    Certainly the total cost of the scandal is worse than the even the most pessimistic estimates at the time it broke. (And the Feds aren’t even done yet! The EPA is done, and the consumers are taken care of, but there’s still the DoJ to extract their pound of flesh. And the states. And Europe. Any any other country with some poorly-enforced emissions laws they can dust off.)

    If I had a VW/Audi logo on my business card (dealer, engineer, front-desk receptionist), I’d be looking to bail from the ship…

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Aren’t various German gov’ts (state, local, union, national) investors in VW? The company isn’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t want to hold a ton of their stock, but I don’t think one should worry about buying a VW.

      • 0 avatar

        Lower Saxony (where Wolfsburg is located) owns 20% of VW, so yes. It would be bad for Germany if VW were to go away.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Point is, I’m sure there would be a GM/Chrysler style bailout. How much the shareholders will be wiped out, who knows, but the car owners would be okay.

          • 0 avatar

            VW currently has a market cap of $56B, which prices in the market’s expectations of any future settlements and lawsuits from the diesel scandal.

            Fifty-six billion dollars. They aren’t anywhere near bankruptcy or bailouts.

          • 0 avatar

            The implication here is twofold: First that VW is too big to fail and, second, various govenment entities in Germany are heavily invested in VAG so they just can’t fail.

            The Germans have made horrible decisions before. They did actually ELECT Hitler. Elect. Select.

            I’m not convinced they’re incapable of huge mistakes.

          • 0 avatar

            @WhiskeyRiver, Hitler never received a majority of the vote in a FREE German election. He was appointed Chancellor in a back room deal, and took over when President Hindenburg died.

            Hitler DID get 13 million votes in the last free election, but was beaten by Hindenburg’s 19 million votes. The Nazi party never got a majority in the Reichstag in a free election, but was the largest party there.

            The people who say Hitler was “elected” are looking at elections the Nazis controlled after they took over the election process, and there was no room for surprises with them. 90%-plus vote pluralities should not be taken as honest elections.

    • 0 avatar

      More a perception in the US, than the reality outside. How many times have people from the US, have told me how American Football and Baseball were going to takeover the world with zero idea of what is happening outside the US

      • 0 avatar

        The first election in which Hitler ran was in 1932. Hindenburg won that. Hitler was then appointed Chancellor in 1933. In 1934 he won an actual election.

        He got something like 43% of the vote in the ’32 election. 42 and change as I recall.

        • 0 avatar

          In the April 1932 German Presidential election, Hindenburg got 19.3 million votes, Hitler got 13.4 million votes and a communist, Ernts Thalmann (who Hitler wanted to withdraw), got 3.7 million. Hitler got under 37%. Thalmann was later arrested and executed.

          In the backroom deal in January of 1933, Hitler became Chancellor and Hermann Goering was made acting Prussion minister of the interior, giving him control of the election office. The nazis were from Bavaria and already controlled that election office. Together the two states were nearly 70% of the vote.

          The 1934 election was a referendum to combine the chancellor with the presidency after the death of Hindenburg, and was anything BUT a free election. Prussia and Bavaria “voted” in favor by 96%. As Comrade Stalin once said, it’s not important who votes, but who counts the votes.

          Ask any historian: neither Hitler, nor the Nazi Party, ever got a majority in a FREE election.

          • 0 avatar

            I generally agree.

            It’s interesting that you’re the only guy to shoot at me over that. I knew it was provocative when I wrote it.

            It does not change my opinion about the German government, and all government bodies for that matter, are entirely capable of doing very stupid things.

            I’m watching a bunch of very stupid people grill the FBI director right this moment. It is rare to see this many proven stupid people in one place.

          • 0 avatar

            We have an old saying here in America. In any debate, he who first mentions HITLER, loses.

  • avatar

    I bet that VIP Suite interrogation area is fairly comfortable and well-equipped. South Korea isn’t too hard on big business executives. Plus, as a man running a Korean company, I’m sure his entire family is very connected and wealthy.

  • avatar

    VW execs have no shame, so they deserve to be sweated.
    Hyundai execs will jump off a 12 story building to avoid shame.

  • avatar

    Park Dong-hoon.

    That sounds like a James Bond villain.

  • avatar

    Shades of days gone by when the whites bugged out of a colony and left their indigenous hirelings to twist in the wind.

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