VW chief resigns over emissions scandal

Volkswagen (VW) chief executive Martin Winterkorn has resigned after a hailstorm of criticism over the carmaker's emissions-rigging scandal.

Analysts said Winterkorn’s resignation was inevitable, given the company’s ‘intentional and widespread’ efforts to deceive policymakers. VW shares have also plummeted to a third of their original value, leaving the company in turmoil. 

The German firm has been found to have fitted up to 11 million of its cars with a device designed to reduce emissions of nitrous oxides (NOx) under testing conditions. The practice may have caused an extra million tonnes of air pollution every year, according to one recent report.

In a statement this afternoon, Winterkorn said: “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.

Germany, Italy and South Korea have already launched their own national investigations into the scandal, while Volkswagen has set up a task force with an external advisor to find out what happened.

Need to know

The UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) used the scandal to call for beefed up emissions testing in the future.

Chair of the committee, Huw Irranca-Davies, said: “Air pollution from dangerous emissions in diesel vehicles is linked to thousands of deaths in the UK each year.

“We need to know from our government that the reported vehicle emissions in the UK are accurate, that no deception similar to that in the US has taken place, and that our emissions-testing regime is rigorous and secure.

“This will also add weight to the calls by the previous EAC committee to clean up the air in our city centres by introducing a network of low emission zones.

“The impact of poor air quality on health and mortality is already a scandal in the UK and in many of our major cities, and emissions from diesel vehicles are the prime culprit.”

Thorough testing

A separate investigation made public last week by lobby group Transport & Environment, revealed that nine out of 10 diesel cars break new EU pollution limits when tested on roads rather than test tracks.

The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), which aims to accelerate the UK’s shift to greener motoring, also called for vehicles’ environmental credentials to be more thoroughly tested.

LowCVP’s managing director Andy Eastlake said: “With the increasing complexity and range of vehicle technologies and the transport energy system, policy makers should also be mindful of the need to consider the adoption of a more holistic ‘well-to-wheel’ – and ultimately full life-cycle – assessment of vehicles’ contribution to emissions, such as the approach the LowCVP has developed for buses.”

Brad Allen

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