I am going to write about Volkswagen’s problems in this issue. But things are moving so fact, I will wait until the next issue for a real update. It has been reported that a high-ranking employee warned senior Volkswagen managers in May 2014 that U.S. regulators might examine car engine software as part of an investigation into pollution levels. The warning came in the form of a letter, sent more than a year before the German carmaker’s public admission that its cars had been equipped with software to manipulate emission test results. This raises questions about how much senior managers knew about the scandal.
The U.S. Justice Department is looking to establish what role, if any, was played by senior managers, including former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn. Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to cheating pollution tests but has maintained that only a small number of employees were to blame and that there was no indication that board members were involved.
The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag was first to report the existence of an internal letter warning senior managers about the investigation. Citing documents from VW’s own investigation of the scandal, Bild am Sonntag reported that an employee known internally as “Winterkorn’s fireman” had notified superiors about the investigation. The employee’s name is Bernd Gottweis. When Volkswagen felt pressured to take action on the increased NOx emissions, the company sent Mr. Gottweis in to investigate.
Gottweis sent the note to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg. During his years of service, he was in charge of a group called the Committee for Product Security, a team known within Volkswagen as the “Fire Department” that included engineers, lawyers and other specialists who were called into action to put out product fires. During the 1980s, Mr. Gottweis and his team were responsible for containing the damage from Audi AG’s sudden unintended acceleration defect, which was believed to be the cause of hundreds of accidents and half a dozen deaths.
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