VW veteran lined up to be North America boss quits

Wed Oct 14, 2015 4:43pm EDT
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By Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer

HAMBURG/BERLIN (Reuters) - The man Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) lined up less than three weeks ago to head its North American business resigned on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the German carmaker's efforts to recover from a scandal over its rigging of U.S. diesel emissions tests.

News of the resignation of company veteran Winfried Vahland came as Germany's Spiegel magazine reported that at least 30 Volkswagen managers were involved in the test cheating. VW said the figure was without any basis.

Last week, the head of Volkswagen's U.S. business, Michael Horn, said he thought only "a couple of software engineers" were responsible.

"Vahland was a good manager," said London-based analyst Arndt Ellinghorst at banking advisory firm Evercore ISI. "VW is facing massive challenges and a completely new start."

VW, Europe's largest carmaker, is in crisis after admitting last month it installed software in diesel vehicles to deceive U.S. regulators about their true level of toxic emissions.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which probes companies accused of deceptive advertising, said on Wednesday it had the joined Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency in investigating Volkswagen.

The scandal has wiped out a quarter off Volkswagen's market value, forced out its long-time chief executive, and rocked both the global car industry and the German economy.

On Tuesday, the company said it would cut investment plans at its core VW division by 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year through 2019 and speed up savings as it braces for a clean-up bill that some analysts say could reach 35 billion euros to cover regulatory fines, vehicle recall costs and lawsuits.   Continued...

Winfried Vahland  in Mlada Boleslav March 20, 2013. REUTERS/David W Cerny