German media is reporting that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, was informed about the company’s emissions cheating in late July of that year — a month before the automaker claims its executive board learned of the issue.
Several media outlets are reporting that a former senior VW quality officer told Winterkorn on July 27, 2015 that the company “cheated,” Reuters reports.
The phone call between Winterkorn and the officer came as the United States demanded answers for alarming emissions test results. Ultimately, discrepancies between real-world tests performed by West Virginia University researchers (and later by U.S. regulators) led to the September 18, 2015 issuing of a Notice of Violation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
That notice blew the lid off a brewing scandal, informing the world that VW equipped roughly 11 million vehicles with illegal “defeat devices” to fool regulators into believing the diesel engines were clean enough to certify.
Under investigation himself, Winterkorn has rarely spoken of the scandal. The former CEO claims he learned of the severity of the issue at the same time as the company’s executive board. According to a court statement accompanying the company’s multi-billion-dollar U.S. settlement, executive knowledge of the defeat devices came in late August of 2015. A month earlier, around the time of the phone call, VW claims senior management met with employees when the U.S. certification process of 2016 models stalled.
Still, VW claims that, at the time, it didn’t think the issue was all that serious.
According to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and networks NDR and WDR, Winterkorn phoned the quality officer, demanding to know what was holding up the certification process. The officer claims he told Winterkorn the company had “cheated” in the U.S.
A multitude of German investors are currently suing Volkswagen, claiming the company sat on the crucial information instead of informing stockholders of the looming danger. The scandal sent VW shares tumbling, erasing billions in wealth.
It’s proven the company’s CEO knew of the emissions cheating, Volkswagen could find itself in even more financial trouble.