The Volkswagen Group has named current Porsche chief Matthias Müller as the new CEO of Volkswagen AG, who faces the difficult task of steering the German auto giant out of the diesel emissions scandal that has dominated the news of late.
Müller replaces Martin Winterkorn, who, after having accepted responsibility for the company’s deliberate attempts to cheat emissions tests, resigned on Thursday in an effort to “win back trust” with Volkswagen customers.
In a statement released overnight, Volkswagen was optimistic that Müller, an industry veteran with 38 years experience who has been Porsche CEO since 2010, was “what the company needs now”.
“Matthias Müller is exactly the right man at the right time to make a fresh start and to drive clarification of the current crisis that has hit our company with decisiveness and to draw the right conclusions,” the statement read.
The scandal, widely dubbed “dieselgate” in social media, saw Volkswagen’s EA189 2.0 litre diesel engine – which has been fitted to some 11 million vehicles worldwide – exposed as being fitted with software that allowed it to cheat emissions tests.
The Volkswagen Group EA189 engine
The Volkswagen Group EA189 engine
The software, described as a “defeat device” by the US EPA, worked by monitoring steering wheel movements.
If the wheel remained perfectly centred while the road wheels were turning, the engine control unit assummed an emissions test was taking place and altered its tune to suit.
However in normal operation the engine would emit up to 40 times the claimed amount of nitrogen oxide – a greenhouse gas that converts to ozone when exposed to sunlight and can cause respiratory problems in animals including humans.
Volkswagen’s share price increased slightly when news of Müller’s appointment broke, however has since settled back down to 107.30.
Volkswagen stock has taken a battering since the details of the scandal emerged, with stock prices plummeting by around 30 percent.
Other manufacturers respond
The news has also affected shareholder confidence in other European passenger car manufacturers, with Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and BMW all suffering a slight hit to their stocks – though nowhere near as much as that inflicted upon Volkswagen.
Those manufacturers have publicly declared their innocence, however, with BMW stating that it, “does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests.”
“We observe the legal requirements in each country and fulfill all local testing requirements,” BMW said in an official statement. “In other words, our exhaust treatment systems are active whether rolling on the test bench or driving on the road.”
Mercedes-Benz was also adamant that it has not engaged in the deliberate tampering of emissions results:
“We categorically deny the accusation of manipulating emission tests regarding our vehicles,” the company stated. “A defeat device, a function which illegitimately reduces emissions during testing, has never been and will never be used at Daimler. “This holds true for both diesel and petrol engines. Our engines meet and adhere to every legal requirement.”
Meanwhile in Australia, the local arms of Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda have yet to issue any statement detailing how many cars and which models sold in Australia may be equipped with the defeat device.
The EA189 is known to have been fitted to vehicles sold locally by those brands.
“Volkswagen Group Australia is still awaiting details with regards to our market and specifically which models may be affected,” said local Volkswagen spokesman Kurt McGuiness.