Berlin, Sept 23: The embattled chief executive of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, today resigned in the wake of a massive scandal engulfing the German auto giant which has been accused of systematically manipulating data of exhaust emissions tests in millions of diesel cars sold worldwide.
"I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group," Winterkorn, 68, said in a statement.
"Volkswagen needs a fresh start -- also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation," he said. Volkswagen will announce a new CEO on Friday, a board member said. Earlier, the German government launched an investigation into the allegations that the the world's second-largest auto maker manipulated data on pollution control tests.
An inquiry commission set up by the government to investigate the charges against the iconic German auto giant will take up its work by visiting Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg in the state of Lower Saxony this week, federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt announced.
The commission chaired by state secretary in the transport ministry Michael Odenwald will examine among other things whether the concerned cars were built and tested in conformity with existing German and European guidelines and whether they fulfilled the requirements of Germany's Technical Inspection Agency, which issues the road worthiness certificate for automobiles, Dobrindt told a news conference yesterday.
The allegations against Germany's largest car maker were initially raised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which last week ordered it to recall nearly half a million diesel cars on the ground that they were fitted with a device which allowed cars to pass emission control tests by showing much lower levels of pollution than in ordinary use.
A special software enabled the cars to detect when they were undergoing emissions control tests and to lower their pollution levels.
It could hide the fact that the emission levels of diesel cars were 40 times higher than the level of pollutants allowed in the US. Besides the EPA, the US Justice Department, the prosecutor of New York and environmental authorities in Canada also are investigating the way Volkswagen manipulated the tests to measure the amount of pollutants from diesel cars.