Martin Winterkorn is out... (Source: Getty)
Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn is stepping down, saying he accepts "responsibility" for the emissions scandal that has erupted in the last few days.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the embattled boss said he was "shocked by the events of the past few days, adding: "Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group."
But he acknowledged the buck stopped with him, saying: "As chief executive I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as chief executive of the Volkswagen Group.
"I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.
"Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation. I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees.
"Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life. The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
Calls for him to resign have been growing as the crisis escalates, with billions of dollars being wiped off Volkswagen's share price over the past three days. The German car firm said yesterday it was setting aside €6.5bn (£4.2bn) for potential financial fallout from the scandal, admitting that up to 11m vehicles could be affected worldwide.
It was widely expected that he would be replaced by Porsche boss and Volkswagen board member Matthias Muller at a meeting on Friday.
But Winterkorn yesterday issued a video statement in which ignored those rumours, instead asked for customers trust as the manufacturer got to the bottom of the problem.