Volkswagen's boss Martin Winterkorn has quit his job as the diesel emissions cheat scandal continues to engulf the German car maker.
Winterkorn – who characterised the saga as a "grave crisis" for VW – resigned on Wednesday saying that he was "shocked by the events of the past few days".
Late last week, it was revealed that Volkswagen had cheated on emissions testing for nearly 500,000 of its vehicles, according to the US government, which had accused the manufacturer of violating the Clean Air Act. The cheating was implemented via the vehicles' software, which could sense when emissions testing was being carried out and adjust emissions downward – particularly those of Nitrogen Oxide, or NOx. Outside a test environment the vehicle would allow itself to emit huge amounts more NOx, greatly enhancing fuel economy and other performance metrics.
Diesel engines' NOx emissions can be reduced by means of various technologies based on special urine-like liquid – but it seems that these may have been deliberately reduced in effectiveness.
By Tuesday, the 500,000 vehicle number ballooned when VW admitted that 11 million of its cars across the globe needed to be recalled and reprogrammed.
Winterkorn, who apologised over the scandal but resisted quitting VW, said 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.
"Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation." ®