In a surprise to no one, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn will be fired on Friday for his role in the fake emissions results, German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reports. He will likely be replaced by current Porsche CEO Matthias Müller.
It became obvious that heads were going to roll in the wake of this major scandal. Winterkorn will be the first to go, having lost the trust of the board and tarnished the reputation of Volkswagen in the eyes of consumers all over the globe.
Who is Martin Winterkorn?
Winterkorn, 68, has been at the helm of the German manufacturer since 2007. Five months ago, he won a boardroom battle over Volkswagen corporate patriarch Ferdinand Piech, 78, after the latter publicly disavowed him. This didn’t sit well with VW employees and even members of his family, who happens to own a 51% stake in the company.
As the Financial Post points out, had Winterkorn conceded defeat that day, he would have avoided the disgrace of the company’s U.S. pollution control scandal, which has caused Volkswagen to lose more than a quarter of its stock in just two days.
Before taking the reins in 2007, Winterkorn was in charge of technical development including engineering and innovation. The cars, which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came with a “defeat device” for emission tests, were mostly built from 2009. Winterkorn’s team seemingly managed to lower vehicle emissions and meet the stricter standards, but that was all a scam.
The Financial Post also highlights that Volkswagen’s June 2007 “Powertrain and Fuel Strategy,” published six months after Winterkorn took over as CEO, mentioned a new engine concept called “BlueTDI” which could fulfill the toughest emissions laws in the world, even California’s. In 2008, Volkswagen announced that development was completed, and in 2009, cars with such engines – the same ones the EPA has just flagged for violation – went on sale.
Winterkorn, who may be public enemy number one right now, has since posted a video to express how sorry he is for the fiasco, but stopped short of resigning. His fate looks sealed anyway.