German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the decision to fit “defeat devices” on diesel-powered Volkswagen models were made before Martin Winterkorn became VW Group CEO.
“I have great respect for his decision. He is taking responsibility for something that happened when he was not chief executive of Volkswagen but rather at Audi,” Gabriel was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The minister’s comments were echoed by members of the steering committee of VW Group’s supervisory board, who also said Winterkorn did not know about the software manipulation aimed at cheating US diesel emissions tests.
Committee member Stephan Weil, who is also Lower Saxony President, told a German television station that he believed Winterkorn’s statement that he knew nothing of the diesel tests manipulation. “Other members also believed him,” Weil told ARD.
In his resignation statement released yesterday, Martin Winterkorn said he was taking responsibility for the rigging of US emissions tests “even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.”
VW is expected to start naming people responsible for the manipulations of emissions tests on Friday, when the company will also announce Winterkorn’s successor. The automaker is also rumored to fire three top executives on Friday, according to a source cited by Reuters. The head of VW’s US operations and top engineers at Audi and Porsche are expected to go, regardless of whether they knew about the cheating.