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10th Jul 2020

Investigation

VW absolves own managers on diesel cheat

  • Volkswagen managers did nothing wrong, says US legal firm according to Volkswagen (Photo: Volkswagen AG)

Volkswagen's senior managers were not to blame for the diesel emissions fraud that was uncovered last year, the car company said on Wednesday (11 May), based on information from US law firm Jones Day.

Volkswagen (VW) asked the American legal experts to investigate responsibility for the decision to fit 11 million diesel vehicles with software that made the car behave differently on the road from in the test laboratory.

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“Although the investigation by Jones Day is still ongoing, according to information currently available, no serious and manifest breaches of duty on the part of any serving or former members of the Board of Management have been established,” Europe's largest car maker said in a press release.

The findings match previous statements from senior VW managers.

In October 2015, the company's US CEO Michael Horn said the decision to cheat on emissions tests “was not a corporate decision, from my point of view, and to my best knowledge today”.

“This was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reasons,” he told the US House of Representatives.

At the same time, his UK colleague Paul Willis told MPs in London: “I find it absolutely implausible that senior people in the company would have known of those issues with regard to the testing regime.”

However, Czech emissions expert Libor Fleischhans has the complete opposite opinion.

Fleischhans runs an independent diagnostic shop in Mlada Boleslav, hometown of Skoda Auto, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group. He sometimes tests Skoda cars for the company, as well as other brands, but most of his customers are “regular people”.

This website spoke to him shortly before the VW press release came out, and asked him what he thought of the idea that only a few rogue engineers were responsible for “dieselgate”.

“I simply don't believe that. All these top executives have climbed up from engineering,” he said.

“[VW's management] is not inhabited by businessmen who have no idea of technology. No way.”

Meanwhile, the interim report on which Volkswagen based its statement will not be published and "no elaboration" will be given on the management board's absolution.

Volkswagen on Wednesday repeated that it would have to keep the rest of the interim report secret, because transparency "would still involve unjustifiable risks", meaning possible legal challenges.

VW will not publish emissions cheat report

Volkswagen said it would keep its preliminary report into the emissions scandal secret because publishing it would “present an unacceptable risk” to the firm.

How the car industry won the EU's trust

Car companies are allowed to do carry out some testing of their own products thanks to some little-noticed legislation inspired by an industry-backed report.

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