Executives tried to hide existence of defeat devices, report says
A new report from Reuters has revealed that Volkswagen executives tried to hide the diesel emissions cheating scandal in the U.S., according to an FBI court filing. Oliver Schmidt, a senior Volkswagen manager, will appear in court for charges that include defrauding the United States. Schmidt also knew of the existence of defeat devices in equipped in Volkswagen’s diesel engines, feds allege. The FBI complaint, which was filed at a Michigan court, also stated that executive management authorized the move to cover up the existence of the defeat devices instead of fully disclosing them.
Schmidt’s arrest comes 16 months after the diesel emissions scandal broke out and as Volkswagen nears its settlement with the Department of Justice and the EPA. Since it admitted to installing emissions cheating software in diesel-powered vehicles, the scandal has cost Volkswagen over $18 billion USD and led to the ousting of former CEO Martin Winterkorn. In the U.S., Volkswagen has officially dropped every diesel vehicle it sells and is now shifting its focus toward electrification and developing long-range electric vehicles.
Before returning to Germany, Schmidt was one of the executives that championed Volkswagen’s diesel engines, according to the Reuters report. He also served as the head of the brand’s U.S. Energy and Environmental office from 2014 to 2015. Volkswagen’s sales chief, Juergen Stackmann, also told Reuters that he was surprised to learn of Schmidt’s arrest and said that he doesn’t know if there’s a connection to the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Schmidt has been named in a number of lawsuits filed last year as a key individual in Volkswagen’s attempts to hide the real reason that its diesel-powered vehicles were emitting unusually high levels of NOx in real-world conditions.
Outside of the U.S., Schmidt testified to a U.K. parliamentary committee that the responsibility of supporting development of diesel engines at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters was given to him after the emissions scandal broke. A law firm in the U.K. has launched legal action against Volkswagen with the goal of seeking monetary compensation for drivers of affected vehicles. Other countries such as South Korea have halted sales of specific Volkswagen Group vehicles and have even arrested a number of company executives due to the diesel emissions scandal.
Motor Trend reached out to Volkswagen for a statement regarding the arrest of Oliver Schmidt and a company spokesman said, “Volkswagen continues to cooperate with the Department of Justice as we work to resolve remaining matters in the United States. It would not be appropriate to comment on any ongoing investigations or to discuss personnel matters.”