Volkswagen patriarch says ex-CEO Winterkorn knew of emissions cheating: Report

According to the report, Volkswagen’s former supervisory board chief Piech told prosecutors that he himself learned from an informant in February 2015 that the company had a “big problem” in the United States.

autos Updated: Feb 04, 2017 00:29 IST
Volkswagen,VW emissions scandal,Ferdinand Piech
In this Jan 19, 2017 file picture, Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of the German car manufacturer Volkswagen, arrives for a questioning at an investigation committee of the German federal parliament in Berlin, German. Prosecutors in Germany say on Jan. 27, 2017 they have sufficient evidence to indicate that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn knew of his company's emissions cheating software earlier than he claims. (AP file photo)

Volkswagen’s former supervisory board chief has told German investigators that ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn knew about the diesel emissions cheating scam well before the scandal broke, news weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday.

“Ferdinand Piech has incriminated the group’s former chief executive Martin Winterkorn with a detailed statement to prosecutors,” the German magazine said, without citing its sources.

According to the report, Piech told prosecutors that he himself learned from an informant in February 2015 that the company had a “big problem” in the United States.

The source told Piech that US authorities were looking into its use of manipulating software to dupe pollution tests and had passed on their findings to Volkswagen.

Piech then asked Winterkorn about it, who assured him that no such document from US officials existed, according to Der Spiegel.

Volkswagen first admitted in September 2015 that it had installed so-called defeat devices in 11 million diesel engines worldwide to make the cars seem less polluting than they were.

Winterkorn resigned days after the admission but has always insisted he knew nothing of the scam before it became public knowledge.

Prosecutors in the German city of Brunswick however announced last week that they were investigating Winterkorn for fraud, saying they had “sufficient indications” he knew about the cheating earlier.

According to Der Spiegel, Piech gave his damning testimony when he was questioned by prosecutors last year.

The spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Brunswick could not immediately be reached for comment.

Felix Doerr, a lawyer for Winterkorn, said in a statement sent to AFP that his client was aware Piech had spoken to prosecutors but did not yet know “the details of this statement”.

“Mr Winterkorn will respond to the allegations against him, and therefore also this statement, as soon as the documents from the Brunswick prosecutor’s office are made available to him,” he said.

Piech and his one-time protege Winterkorn are embroiled in a long-running rivalry.

Piech unexpectedly resigned as head of the German auto giant’s supervisory board in April 2015 following a bitter power struggle with Winterkorn after the pair apparently fell out over Volkswagen’s difficulties in making inroads in the lucrative US market.

Piech, 79, is the grandson of the inventor of the iconic Beetle, the model on which VW’s fortune was built, and was himself VW’s chief executive between 1993 and 2002.

He is also one of the representatives of the Porsche family, whose holding company Porsche SE holds 52 percent of VW.

First Published: Feb 04, 2017 00:29 IST