Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn’s future in doubt amid emissions scandal

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn’s future in doubt amid emissions scandal

The future of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn hangs in the balance in the wake of an emissions rigging scandal engulfing the German car manufacturer.

After falling by over a quarter in two days since the revelation Volkswagen had been trying to dupe US testers for its diesel cars, the company’s share price has modestly recovered.

It was up 3.4% at 115 euro after declines of 17% and 20% in the first two days of the week that saw nearly 25 billion euro (£18 billion) wiped off the company’s market value.

So far, no one is known to have lost their job over the scandal since it was revealed last Friday.

Mr Winterkorn, whose contract was scheduled to be extended by two years to 2018 at a meeting of the supervisory board on Friday, is under the most pressure.

The scandal has raised questions over his future.

German media are reporting that the board’s executive committee is meeting to discuss the crisis.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said Volkswagen could face fines of as much as 18 billion US dollars (£11.7 billion). Other countries, such as South Korea, have also ordered investigations into emission levels of VW cars and some law firms in North America have filed class action lawsuits.

Volkswagen said 11 million of its vehicles worldwide contained the so-called “defeat device” that allowed the cars to beat the testers. The revelation is an increase from the 482,000 cars previously identified by the US’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr Winterkorn said he was “endlessly sorry” and asked in a video message for “your trust on our way forward”.

VW is yet to explain who installed the software, under what direction, why and who knew about it. Mr Winterkorn said he does not yet have all the answers, but also that it would be wrong to cast doubt on the work of the whole workforce “because of the grave mistakes of a few”.

The deputy leader of Germany’s IG Metall industrial union, Joerg Hofmann, has warned against premature personnel decisions and said “all the facts must be on the table first”.

New York lawyer General Eric T Schneiderman said he had opened an investigation into the Volkswagen cars and would collaborate with other states to enforce consumer and environmental protections in the case.

Volkswagen has set aside an initial 6.5 billion euro (£4.7 billion) to cover the fallout and “win back the trust” of customers.

The scandal is also a huge problem for a brand long identified with trustworthiness and reliability. And there are concerns that could spill over into a wider image problem for goods made in Germany.

The head of the German exporters’ association, Anton Boerner, urged Volkswagen to put the facts on the table. “Whether collateral damage arises for the image of German products also depends on that,” he told Germany’s Bild newspaper.

He added, however, that the good image of German goods “is rooted in excellent products from thousands of companies and, thank God, does not depend on a single company”.

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