from CNN Money
Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday as a growing scandal over falsified emissions tests rocked the world’s biggest carmaker.
“I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” Winterkorn said in a statement after an emergency meeting with Volkswagen directors.
He said he was stunned by the scale of the misconduct and was accepting responsibility to clear the way for a “fresh start” for the company.
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
The scandal broke Friday when U.S. regulators said the German company had deliberately programmed some 500,000 vehicles to emit lower levels of harmful emissions in official tests than on the roads.
It exploded into a global crisis Tuesday when Volkswagen (VLKAY) said its internal investigations had found significant emissions discrepancies in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.
The company’s stock price has crashed, causing big losses for investors such as the Gulf state of Qatar, and trust has been shaken in a brand that is at the heart of German manufacturing and exports.
Volkswagen, which also owns the Audi and Porsche brands, overtook Toyota (TM) earlier this year to become the world’s biggest automaker by vehicle sales.
Winterkorn had apologized profusely, twice, and the company has set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the cost of recalls and other efforts to limit the damage, trashing its profit forecast for the year in the process.
But the final bill could be much higher. The company faces civil and possible criminal fines in the U.S. that are likely to total billions of dollars. And it’s unclear yet whether it will have to issue massive recalls in other markets.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of the crisis in Germany, where making quality cars is central to the country’s reputation as a manufacturing and export powerhouse. The auto industry accounts for about 20% of exports, and employs 775,000 people directly.More News