As Pope Francis prepared to speak on Capitol Hill in favor of climate change reform, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn announced his untimely resignation. The decision came after last week’s revelations by the Environmental Protection Agency that the German automaker had covertly installed a “defeat device” that switched on during emissions tests, making the vehicles appear low-emission. According to Volkswagen, the technology was installed in 11 million cars going back as far as 2009.
“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,” Winterkorn said in a statement Wednesday. “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 wrong doing on my part.”
The company’s presidium, a steering committee comprised of advisors and major stockholders, also agreed that Winterkorn was unaware of the diesel engine manipulation. Volkswagen has said that at least $7.3 billion will be set aside to address it.
Still, a lack of awareness on Winterkorn’s part won’t spare the company from possible criminal proceedings, or save the German economy from the repercussions of a scandal involving its largest carmaker. What’s more, the company may face fines of up $18 billion for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act by releasing 40 times the acceptable amount of nitrogen oxides, a major air pollutant.
Winterkorn’s successor has yet to be named.
[via New York Times]