Senior Volkswagen directors gather for critical meeting

Executive committee of Volkswagen’s board conducts crisis meeting over emission scandal which could end CEO’s employment

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Volkswagen AG's Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn

Senior directors of German automaker Volkswagen were summoned to Wolfsburg, Germany on Wednesday to discuss the smog-test scandal which Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn has been held liable for. 

The top agenda of the meeting is set to be Winterkorn, who analysts believe is likely to have his employment terminated. 

Winterkorn has led the company since 2007 and was on course to have his employment contract extended through to 2018 this week, however, such an extension will now be debated. A full board meeting is expected to be held on Friday. 

An article published in the Tagesspiegel newspaper stated that the CEO would be replaced with Matthias Mueller, head of the automaker's Porsche sports car business. Volkswagen, however, denied the allegations. 

The Volkswagen CEO admitted to allegations which took place during his leadership involving the installation of “cheating software” onto 11 million vehicles, deceiving US air-pollution testers. 

John McElroy, Journalist and host of the television program Autoline Daily, who spoke to TrtWorld, said this was the first time an automaker “...actively plot out how it could cheat the system especially when it comes to emissions.”

McElroy, touching on Winterkorn’s history with the company said that “It will be very difficult for him if not impossible for him to continue as CEO of Volkswagen AG.”

The dilemma with environmental regulators stretches back to three years ago when officials began questioning cases where cars were passing tests but causing more pollution on the road. 

When suspicions escalated, the regulators threatened the company with withholding certification for its 2016 diesel models. Only then did Volkswagen confess to its wrongdoing.

Following these events, it issued a profits warning and set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the costs and regain investor sentiment.

Winterkorn, who shared a video statement on Volkswagen website on Tuesday, apologised and promised to speed up investigations to bring transparency to the matter. However, there was no mention of his resignation in the statement.   

"I am endlessly sorry that we have disappointed this trust. I apologize in every way to our customers, to authorities and the whole public for the wrongdoing," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for Volkswagen to act as "quickly as possible" as not only the confidence of the board has been marred but also investor sentiment. 

Since the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly accused the company of cheating emission tests, Volkswagen has lost 24 billion euros ($26.7 billion) in market value.

Volkswagen automobiles are believed to cause pollution at 40 times the permissible legal limits while on the road, according to the EPA.

Germany's Transport Ministry provoked a new debate on Wednesday after it said it was aware of the software being used by Volkswagen to mask its cars emissions since July.

“The federal government is aware of [defeat devices], which have the goal of [test] cycle detection,” said the German transport ministry in a written response to the Green party.

An official commission-led by Michael Odenwald, a junior transport minister, has now been set up by the German government to investigate the Volkswagen case. 

TRTWorld and agencies