I know it seems like we’ve been talking about VW’s dieselgate scandal for years and that’s because, well, we have. But it just keeps getting crazier and in order to get to the meat of today’s story – which has as much courtroom drama as an episode of Matlock – we need to go back to the beginning.
It was the Fall of 2015 when Volkswagen was busted, and admitted to using illegal software to rig emissions testing, so its diesels could pass tests with regulators. Audi, the premium brand owned by Volkswagen Group initially denied involvement but shortly thereafter copped to selling 2 million or so diesels fitted with the cheating software. Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned due to the scandal, but Audi’s CEO, Rupert Stadler, has remained on board with the luxury brand.
Well, this past week some information surfaced via a former Audi engineer. According to Forbes, the former employee, Ulrich Weiß, was one of the company’s leading diesel developers until he was suspended in 2015. Despite this, Weiß continued to collect a paycheck since, to the tune of $473,000 annually, until last week when he was unceremoniously fired for testimony that Audi has essentially invented dieselgate’s defeat devices.
Since then, the engineer has produced a document – what Forbes is referring to as the “Smoking Dieselgate Gun” signed by Audi’s head of powertrain development Dr. Thomas Heiduk, indicating that Audi board members had basically ordered a cheat to be developed. It seems Weiß was asked at the time to find a way of passing Hong Kong’s strict emissions rules and he demanded the order in writing, which he then kept under lock and key in his safe as insurance.
And while you’d think this evidence would signal the end of Audi for its CEO Rupert Stadler, Reuters is reporting that he is expected to win the backing of top officials at the carmaker and parent company Volkswagen this week. Okay, that’s one problem solved. But here’s the other – Audi is the leading premium brand in China, according to Reuters, and this newly revealed Hong Kong scandal could have a major impact on the brand in this market.
I’m Anna Wells and this is IEN Now.