Emissions Omission

Sources: Ex-VW CEO Knew of U.S. Probe

winterkorn ddp images nigel trebbin
German newspaper Bild reported over the weekend that a colleague of VW ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn informed him of the U.S. emissions probe in May 2014 -- 16 months before the German automaker made the investigation public.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The latest revelations suggest that former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn may have known earlier than acknowledged about a U.S. probe into emissions irregularities at Volkswagen, which could expose the company to even heftier fines.

  • Facts


    • In May 2014 a VW employee told Mr. Winterkorn that U.S. environmental authorities were investigating VW emissions controls, sources said.
    • The amount VW will pay in U.S. fines will depend on how high up in the company hierarchy executives knew about the emissions fraud and failed to act.
    • Mr. Winterkorn resigned less than a week after the scandal became public last September, and received a parting compensation package worth €10 million.
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Volkswagen’s former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, appears to have known about potential problems with VW’s diesel emissions much earlier than he previously acknowledged, Handelsblatt has learned.

A report on Sunday in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag alleged that in May 2014 – 16 months before the problems became public – a colleague at VW had informed Mr. Winterkorn that U.S. environmental authorities had launched an investigation into irregularities in the automaker’s diesel emissions.

The scandal eventually became public last September, and now threatens the future of Germany’s largest listed company. Days after it surfaced, Mr. Winterkorn resigned, denying knowledge of the fraud, on September 23. He had just negotiated a lucrative, three-year extension to his compensation package.

According to sources within the company who spoke to Handelsblatt, it appears that top management at VW knew about the existence of a U.S. probe for more than a year before it went public – but apparently did little to address the situation, which angered U.S. investigators.

VW Chronology of a Crisis-01


According to sources, Mr. Winterkorn knew of the existence of the U.S. investigation, but did not know about the illegal software the German automaker had installed on 11 million cars, including 600,000 in the United States, to fake compliance with pollution tests.

According to information obtained by Handelsblatt, it would appear that senior managers surrounding Mr. Winterkorn were informed of the scandal very early on in its development.

As the information came to light, VW management feigned ignorance and dug itself into a defensive position.

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