Martin Winterkorn resigned as chief executive of Volkswagen on Wednesday, taking responsibility for an emissions cheating scandal that has gravely damaged the carmaker’s reputation.
“As C.E.O., I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines,” Mr. Winterkorn, 68, said in a statement.
But Mr. Winterkorn, who had run the company since 2007, continued to insist that he had personally committed no misconduct. “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” he said.
Less than a week earlier, the company admitted that some diesel cars in the United States were equipped with software built to fool emissions tests. And one day earlier, the chief issued a video apology in an attempt to salvage the situation, and perhaps his job. On Tuesday, Volkswagen said that 11 million cars worldwide contained the software, although the company did not clarify whether the software was also used to deceive regulators in other countries.
Separately, representatives of Volkswagen’s supervisory board said they would refer the case to the German authorities for possible criminal prosecution. But they also said they did not believe that Mr. Winterkorn had any knowledge of the software.
An executive committee of the supervisory board did not immediately name a successor. As Mr. Winterkorn’s status came into doubt in recent days, speculation in German news media has focused on Matthias Müller, who is in charge of the division of Volkswagen that makes Porsche sports cars.
Another potential candidate, according to news media reports, is Rupert Stadler, head of the company’s Audi division. If Volkswagen brings in an outsider, one oft-mentioned person is Wolfgang Bernhard, the head of the trucks division at Daimler, who earlier in his career was a top manager at Volkswagen.
Mr. Winterkorn’s resignation was announced after a daylong meeting of the executive committee, which includes the company’s main shareholders.
“In the view of the executive committee, criminal proceedings may be relevant due to the irregularities,” the panel said in a statement. It said that Volkswagen would cooperate fully with any investigation.
Mr. Winterkorn, the panel also said, “had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data.”
SOURCE: JACK EWING
The New York Times