Ex-Volkswagen CEO Learned of Emissions Cheating a Month Before Board, Report Claims

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

German media is reporting that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, was informed about the company’s emissions cheating in late July of that year — a month before the automaker claims its executive board learned of the issue.

Several media outlets are reporting that a former senior VW quality officer told Winterkorn on July 27, 2015 that the company “cheated,” Reuters reports.

The phone call between Winterkorn and the officer came as the United States demanded answers for alarming emissions test results. Ultimately, discrepancies between real-world tests performed by West Virginia University researchers (and later by U.S. regulators) led to the September 18, 2015 issuing of a Notice of Violation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

That notice blew the lid off a brewing scandal, informing the world that VW equipped roughly 11 million vehicles with illegal “defeat devices” to fool regulators into believing the diesel engines were clean enough to certify.

Under investigation himself, Winterkorn has rarely spoken of the scandal. The former CEO claims he learned of the severity of the issue at the same time as the company’s executive board. According to a court statement accompanying the company’s multi-billion-dollar U.S. settlement, executive knowledge of the defeat devices came in late August of 2015. A month earlier, around the time of the phone call, VW claims senior management met with employees when the U.S. certification process of 2016 models stalled.

Still, VW claims that, at the time, it didn’t think the issue was all that serious.

According to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and networks NDR and WDR, Winterkorn phoned the quality officer, demanding to know what was holding up the certification process. The officer claims he told Winterkorn the company had “cheated” in the U.S.

A multitude of German investors are currently suing Volkswagen, claiming the company sat on the crucial information instead of informing stockholders of the looming danger. The scandal sent VW shares tumbling, erasing billions in wealth.

It’s proven the company’s CEO knew of the emissions cheating, Volkswagen could find itself in even more financial trouble.

[Image: Volkswagen AG/ Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY 3.0)]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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2 of 5 comments
  • Brettc Brettc on Aug 25, 2017

    How was he supposed to know? He was just a lowly CEO of a multinational car company. /s

  • Newenthusiast Newenthusiast on Aug 25, 2017

    Assuming that what he says is true (in as much as he either deliberately didn't ask or was never appraised of the minute specifics of the entire TDI certification process in the US), then does this imply that somewhere in the background, Ferdinand Piech was the one who knew more? Its not exactly out of the realm of possibility, given what we know about the very rather complicated way that VAG appears to me organized, with seemingly overlapping titles at each brand and the chairman of the board more authority than the CEO...I think?

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Union fees and corruption. What can go wrong?
  • Lou_BC How about one of those 2 foot wide horizontal speedometers out of the late 60's Ford Galaxie?
  • Lou_BC Was he at GM for 47 years or an engineer for 47 years?
  • Ajla The VW vote that was held today heavily favored unionization (75/25). That's a very large victory for the UAW considering such a vote has failed two other times this decade at that plant.
  • The Oracle Just advertise ICE vehicles by range instead of MPG and let the market decide.