'Shocked' Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn Abandons Ship Following Emissions Cheating Scandal

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a week after a wide-ranging emissions cheating scandal broke involving diesel-engine cars sold in the United States, Martin Winterkorn has announced that he is stepping down from his post as Volkswagen CEO. Although we have a feeling that Winterkorn was kicked out the door with a well-shined wingtip, we’ll just follow the party line that he “resigned.”

Earlier this week, Winterkorn attempted to put a brave face on the serious situation, stating, “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.”

Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn
Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn

But today, Winterkorn fell on his sword and accepted responsibility for the “defeat device” that was installed on millions of vehicles during his tenure as Volkswagen CEO. “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,” said an apologetic Winterkorn. “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.”

However, Winterkorn was quick to point out that he wasn’t the man that authorized the installation of software cheats in TDI engines, stating, “I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.

“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation,” Winterkorn added. “I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis."

The “grave crisis” involves 482,000 Volkswagen vehicles sold in the United States that included engine management software to cheat on the EPA’s emissions tests. When not subject to the EPA’s controlled testing environment, the vehicles were found to emit harmful tailpipe particulates that were 40 times the normal limit.

Since the story first broke on Friday, it has been revealed that over 11 million vehicles worldwide have the engine software installed and that Volkswagen has set aside $7.3 billion to fix the issue. That doesn’t even count the fines that that Volkswagen will be subject to, which would reach a max of $18 billion in the United States alone.