Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said today he is resigning amid a global car emissions scandal affecting 11 million diesel vehicles.
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Volkswagen, the largest carmaker in the world, is accused by regulators of using illegal "defeat device" software that causes 482,000 of its diesel cars in the U.S. to cheat on emissions standards tests.
"I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group," Winterkorn said in a statement today. "As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part."
The contract for Winterkorn, 68, as Volkswagen AG chief executive was extended earlier this month until 2018. Winterkorn has been CEO since 2007. Earlier this year, the company's former chairman Ferdinand Piech, grandson of the inventor of the Volkswagen Beetle Ferdinand Porsche, attempted to push Winterkorn out of the CEO position.
Volkswagen's executive board said in a statement it will present recommendations for Winterkorn's successor at the upcoming meeting of the firm's supervisory board on Friday.
"The Executive Committee has great respect for Chairman Professor Dr. Winterkorn’s offer to resign his position and to ask that his employment agreement be terminated," the committee said in a statement. "The Executive Committee notes that Professor Dr. Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data. The Executive Committee has tremendous respect for his willingness to nevertheless assume responsibility and, in so doing, to send a strong signal both internally and externally."