Winterkorn resigns as Audi chairman in wake of VW scandal

FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) — Volkswagen AG’s former Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn resigned from his post as supervisory board chairman of the company’s Audi division, further scaling back his ties with Europe’s largest automaker amid an investigation into cheating on diesel-emissions tests that took place under his watch.

Winterkorn has stepped down as chairman with immediate effect, a spokesman for Audi said by phone. He resigned as CEO of Volkswagen in September, and Porsche Automobil Holding SE, its biggest shareholder, said on Oct. 17 that he’ll depart as head of that company as well.

Winterkorn’s reluctance to give up all posts related to the company immediately sparked criticism from analysts over poor corporate governance.

Volkswagen is reeling from revelations in September that a line of diesel engines was equipped with software designed to fool emissions testers, affecting about 11 million vehicles worldwide. Audi is among the group’s passenger-vehicle brands that, along with the VW commercial-van nameplate, is faced with the recalls.

The luxury marque accounts for about 2.4 million affected cars. Volkswagen owns almost all of Audi, with less than 1 percent of the unit’s stock publicly traded.

Additionally, VW last week admitted that 800,000 cars largely in Europe might have wrong emissions labels. It however rejected U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allegations that its cheating on diesel-emissions tests included a Porsche model and other high-end vehicles. VW pledged to cooperate with the EPA to clarify any questions regarding the 3.0-liter diesel engines. The additional investigation centers on the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg SUVs and as well as larger sedans and the Q5 SUV from Audi, according to the EPA.

VW’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, has proceeded with a plan Winterkorn drafted to decentralize management, giving more responsibility to brands and regional heads. The efforts have been complicated by the widening cheating scandal as the financial fallout from fixing the cars as well as fines from regulators and lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe are difficult to predict.

Audi was overtaken this year as the world’s second-largest maker of luxury cars by Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz marque after holding the No. 2 ranking since 2011. Premium-market leader BMW AG is attempting to fend off their efforts to take the top spot by the end of the decade.

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