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VW isolates diesel scandal ringleaders

Not for sale: Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch says the VW group will not have to sell any of its 12 subsidiaries to weather the emissions scandal storm.

Chairman of VW pins dieselgate blame on decade-old 'chain of mistakes'

11 Dec 2015

VOLKSWAGEN has laid the blame for the nitrous oxide emissions scandal at the door of nine unnamed senior managers, and has acknowledged that a failure to penetrate the United States market contributed to a culture of rule breaches.

Group chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told journalists that the company is well advanced in its investigations of how the breaches occurred, but that the depth and breadth of the investigation – VW claims more than 100 terabytes of data has been seized from about 380 employees – means that it will continue into 2016.

Up to 450 investigators, including those from US law firm Day Jones, are currently working through the data.

“I here and now guarantee that we will pursue our thorough investigation to its conclusion. I vouch for this personally, as does the entire supervisory board of Volkswagen AG,” said Mr Poetsch.

Internal investigations have discovered that the emissions fiddling happened due to three main factors an attitude in some parts of the company that "tolerated breaches of rules” individual failures in one area of the company and flaws in some checking processes.

A new ‘four-eyes’ checking policy has already been implemented for engine control unit software management, according to the company.

Nine executives have been suspended as a result of the investigations, one more than previously reported. Mr Poetsch reiterated that only a small group of employees were involved in the diesel software cheat.

He said that there was no indication that supervisory or management board members were involved. "Based on what we know today, it was a very limited group which acted irresponsibly," he said.

One of those board members initially implicated in the scandal, former VW research and development head Heinz-Jacob Neusser, has recently been announced as being “available to take on other responsibilities in the company.” Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of Volkswagen, Mathias Mueller, told journalists that the scandal presented the company with an opportunity to overhaul its management structure.

More decision-making power would be meted out to the group’s divisions, with seven changes of top management across the 12 groups already executed. These changes will come into effect in 2017.

Despite earlier reports, Mr Mueller said that the company was not considering the sale of any of its divisions to raise a war chest, to combat the rising costs of the emissions scandal, estimated at more than A$20 billion.

“There is no reason whatsoever to get rid of these assets,” said Mr Mueller, who oversees brands that include Scania, Bugatti and Ducati.

Mr Mueller also revealed that he would travel to the US next year, but after the Detroit motor show in January.

He told journalists that, while he would apologise for the situation, his main incentive for the trip was to resolve the crisis.

"I don't think I will be going down on my knees (over) there,” he said. “I will look ahead optimistically and confidently.”

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