Lawsuits Connect VW CEO to Dieselgate

By Paul Riegler on 20 July 2016
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Wolfgang Hatz

Wolfgang Hatz

Three lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of the states of New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland contend that Volkswagen’s diesel emissions deception, commonly known as “Dieselgate,” reached top levels of the parent company in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The lawsuits, filed Tuesday, directly place the embattled automaker’s current CEO, Matthias Müller, in the middle of the deception, and state that he was very much aware of a 2006 decision to not reengineer certain Audi vehicles with the equipment necessary to meet stringent U.S. emissions standards.

Audi had found a way to eliminate diesel clatter but it wasn’t compatible with then current emissions requirements. Instead of investing in more research, Audi programmed its cars to turn off what it called an “acoustic function,” which brought emissions levels back to permissible standards, during testing.

Last September, Volkswagen admitted it had outfitted some 11 million diesel-powered automobiles with software that allowed the cars to pass emissions standards without lowering the level of emissions created during actual driving. The automaker then said the defeat device, as it is referred to, was the work of a small group of engineers and maintained that top management was unaware of it.

The three lawsuits refer to six defeat devices and provide greater details about how the deception evolved, including making false statements to regulators and failing to equip cars with approved emissions systems.

“The idea that this level of fraud could take place and involve so many people at such high levels of a major international corporation is appalling,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, adding that Dieselgate was “a cunningly cynical fraud at the heart of this scandal.”

The suit filed by New York State names names, including Wolfgang Hatz, the company’s former head of engine and transmission development; Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s former head of development; and Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW’s former head of development.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)