VW says 2014 diesel warnings did not get CEO's attention

Wed Mar 2, 2016 6:40pm EST
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By Christoph Steitz, Andreas Cremer and David Shepardson

FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE former chief executive officer was alerted to problems with U.S. diesel emissions tests in 2014, but the issue "did not initially receive particular attention at the management levels," the German carmaker said on Wednesday.

A memo was sent to former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn in May 2014 about a study by U.S. researchers that raised questions about whether Volkswagen diesel cars were emitting more smog-creating pollutants in real-world driving than in standard government tests, the company said in a statement that summarized its response to a shareholder lawsuit in Germany.

That memo was included in Winterkorn's "extensive weekend mail," VW said. It did not specify who sent the memo, and did not say whether Winterkorn actually read it.

"Whether and to which extent Mr. Winterkorn took notice of this memo at that time is not documented," VW said.

In November 2014, Winterkorn received another memo that referred to a cost framework for the diesel issue in North America, then estimated at 20 million euros.

Winterkorn also attended a July 2015 meeting at which diesel emissions issues were discussed, but it is not clear whether he knew of the cheating at the time.

The German group admitted publicly last September that the anomalies in U.S. emissions tests were caused by software designed to cheat the tests. That acknowledgement has erased billions of euros from VW's market value, forced Winterkorn's resignation, and sparked investigations and lawsuits across the world.

"Volkswagen expressly regrets that, looking back, the situation is different," the company statement said.   Continued...

Keeping customers trust is a big theme at the International Motor Show in Geneva. As David Pollard reports, the emissions scandal is a hot topic, even with CEOs from rival auto makers.