Volkswagen's Top Emissions Man Pleads 'Not Guilty' in Detroit Courtroom

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen s top emissions man pleads not guilty in detroit courtroom

Based in Germany and nabbed by federal agents in Florida, Volkswagen’s one-time top emissions compliance manager for the U.S. made an appearance in a federal courtroom in Detroit today.

Indicted, along with five others, on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and violating the Clean Air Act, Oliver Schmidt isn’t about to face down hard time without a fight. The executive pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports The Detroit News.

Before taking on a role that should have placed him safely out of reach of American authorities, Schmidt, 48, was general manager of Volkswagen’s Engineering and Environmental Office in Auburn Hills, Michigan. There, from 2012 to early 2015, he served as a liaison between VW and the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board.

Those agencies ultimately blew the lid of the scandal, but by that time Schmidt was based out of VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Out of reach, but not out of mind.

An opportunity arose in early January when Schmidt traveled to Cuba for a vacation. The return flight made a stopover in Miami, where FBI agents pounced. In its affidavit, the agency laid out Schmidt’s alleged involvement in a decade-long plan to deceive regulators, including his early knowledge (and denial of) the evidence EPA and CARB held against the company.

In a 2014 email to a colleague, which the FBI claims was written after West Virginia University researchers discovered the company’s soaring real-world diesel emissions, Schmidt stated, “It should first be decided whether we are honest.”

The former executive is facing up to 27 years for the various charges. His lawyer plans to seek bond, though Schmidt has in the past been considered a flight risk.

[Image: SalFalco/ Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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  • Charliej Charliej on Feb 25, 2017

    I am still waiting to see any GM executives indicted for actually killing over 125 of their customers. The US will act against foreign auto makers but turn a blind eye to wrongdoing by domestic manufacturers. I guess that foreign makers do not provide the correct level of bribes, I mean campaign contributions, as domestic companies.

    • See 5 previous
    • JimZ JimZ on Mar 01, 2017

      @Robert.Walter and people keep forgetting that the two scandals are under the jurisdiction of two different agencies. GM's ignition switch problem was NHTSA's reign, VW's emissions cheating was under the EPA. these agencies have completely different enforcement methods and ways to assess penalties. So b!tching about what happened to one company vs. the other is to display a fairly broad lack of knowledge about a lot of things. of course, when you ask one of these "there's so much over-regulation!" people what regulations they think are too much, they never really have a reasonable answer.

  • Dr. Claw Dr. Claw on Mar 01, 2017

    Meh. At the rate things are going, The Clean Air Act might not even exist in this country anymore.

  • ToolGuy Last ad: Is that The Dude doing the voiceover at the end? 😉
  • ToolGuy Nice paint!!Too young to die.
  • David S. For a single quarter, only ninth best-selling (estimated?) of 2022. Maybe ICE vehicles would sell at a similar rate if the government paid people to buy them too?!
  • Dukeisduke I don't like how they've changed their nameplates and font from the Star Trek-ish LEXUS, to L E X U S, kinda like VW's lettering on the back of the T A O S, or those stick-on letters you can buy at the parts store that people use to their own names on the back of their cars.
  • Dukeisduke So, the screen goes blank for two-tenths of a second, every once in a while - what could go wrong?