VW finds no evidence of wrongdoing against ousted top engineers
Volkswagen has reportedly failed to uncover any evidence directly linking three ousted top engineers to the emissions-cheating scandal.
Citing information from an unnamed source close to the company’s supervisory board, a Reuters report claims an internal inquiry has determined the ‘defeat’ software was implemented in 2008. Managers are said to have been under pressure at the time to bring the offending diesel engine from development to production, with early tests indicating non-compliance with US emissions regulations.
Cost-cutting considerations may have been the biggest factor behind the decision to use the manipulative software rather than implement additional emissions-reduction hardware. A recent Automotive News report suggests that, in retrospect, outfitting each car with a urea-injection system on the assembly line would have raised the total production price by approximately $335. The company has confirmed that some vehicles will need the extra emissions-reduction hardware, not just a software reflash, and the final is expected to rise into the thousands of dollars per car to add such equipment on a recall basis.
After the EPA made its initial non-compliance announcement, the automaker quickly suspended Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Ulrich Hackenberg and Wolfgang Hatz, the research-and-development heads at Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, respectively.
It is unclear if VW will backtrack on its decision to axe the executives. The company will have to decide if the move is warranted based on indirect links, as each executive may be considered partially responsible for not validating significant decisions of subordinates. Hackenberg and Hatz are said to have consulted with attorneys, posturing for a potential legal dispute.
Aside from the R&D heads, at least 10 high-level managers were also reportedly suspended in recent weeks. The company has not identified the employees, all of whom may be more directly connected to the software screwup than their ousted bosses.
VW will likely take a few more months to complete its investigation. More heads could roll as the inquiry moves forward, however the automaker is currently keeping many of its preliminary findings under wraps.