Volkswagen Chief Resigns; More Heads To Roll In Diesel Tailpipe Scam

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Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, whose ambition and vision turned Volkswagen into a global powerhouse, resigned Wednesday, taking responsibility for the emissions test cheating scandal that has battered the automaker’s reputation and destroyed 25 percent its stock value.

Though he accepted responsibility, Winterkorn added, “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.” He said he was stepping down because Volkswagen needs “a fresh start” in the wake of the crisis. “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 .”

In a separate statement, the executive committee of the VW’s Supervisory Board said Winterkorn had not been aware of the alleged cheating on U.S. pollution tests but praised him for taking responsibility nonetheless, saying it sends “a strong signal both internally and externally.” The group said it was critical “to ensure a credible new beginning.”

The crisis became public last Friday, when U.S. regulators alleged that nearly 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles were outfitted with software that would make them appear to run cleaner in tests than they do on the road. Volkswagen later said as many as 11 million vehicles could be affected worldwide.

A replacement for Winterkorn will be discussed at a full meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Friday. Potential successors could include Matthias Müller, who heads the company’s Porsche division; Rupert Stadler, chairman of Audi ; and Finance Chief Hans Dieter Potsch.

The executive committee also indicated that more heads will roll, and criminal charges might be warranted. The board will refer the case to German prosecutors.

“The Executive Committee is expecting further personnel consequences in the next days,” adding that an internal investigation is moving swiftly.

The committee also said it would recommend that the Supervisory Board create a special committee, aided by outside experts, to deal with the crisis, including how to mete out punishment to those involved.

“The Executive Committee is aware that coming to terms with the crisis of trust will be a long term task that requires a high degree of consistency and thoroughness…We consider it our task that this company regains the trust of our customers in every respect.”

Joann Muller

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