On Wednesday, Martin Winterkorn resigned as CEO of Volkswagen, days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused the vehicle manufacturer of installing software in a variety of its diesel passenger vehicles to cheat emissions testing. Although Winterkorn had issued a statement saying he was ‘deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public’ on Sunday and vowed to work with authorities, the scandal quickly heated up in headlines across the world.
In his Wednesday announcement, Winterkorn says, ‘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.
“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 wrongdoing on my part.”
Winkerton says the company needs a “fresh start.”
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue,” he adds. “This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.’
In addition to the EPA investigation, Volkswagen is conducting its own probe into the matter.
In a separate statement Wednesday, the executive committee of Volkswagen's supervisory board says Winkerton “had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data.”
“The executive committee has tremendous respect for his willingness to nevertheless assume responsibility and, in so doing, to send a strong signal both internally and externally,” the committee says.
According to the committee, recommendations for new personnel will be presented at the upcoming meeting of the supervisory board this Friday.
Notably, the committee says it is “expecting further personnel consequences in the next days. The internal group investigations are continuing at a high tempo. All participants in these proceedings that has resulted in unmeasurable harm for Volkswagen will be subject to the full consequences.”
Last Friday, the EPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen alleging that the company had installed a “defeat device” in its four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel passenger cars from model years 2009-2015. According to the EPA, a sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The agency said the effectiveness of these vehicles' pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.
For more information on the EPA announcement, click here.