Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn statement: Car boss asks for “trust in our journey” – but there is no mention of resignation yet
Embattled Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn has said he would do anything for trust… but he won't do that.
In a video statement issued this afternoon, Winterkorn said the car giant would do "everything necessary to reverse the damage. And we will do everything necessary to win back trust – step by step".
It has been widely speculated that Porsche chief executive and Volkswagen board member Matthias Muller will be brought in as Winterkorn's replacement at a company meeting on Friday. However that appears to be news to Winterkorn, who made no mention of a possible resignation – or sacking – that many expected.
Instead he urged against blaming the "honest" 600,000 staff "because of mistakes made by only a few".
"Our team does not deserve that," Winterkorn said.
The car boss insisted there would be a quick resolution to the scandal, which has wiped billions off Volkswagen's share price in the last two days. This morning the car giant said 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.
"I am endlessly sorry that we betrayed the trust of millions of people," he added. "Swift and comprehensive clarification has now utmost priority. To make it very clear: manipulation at Volkswagen must never happen again."
"At present we do not yet have all the answers to all the questions, Winterkorn added. "But we are working hard to find out exactly what happened. To do that, we are putting everything on the table, as quickly, thoroughly and transparently as possible."
Volkswagen will cooperate "closely" with relevant government organisations – a number that is growing by the day – he said.
"Manipulation and Volkswagen – that must never be allowed to happen again, Winterkorn said. "I give you my word: we will do all of this with the greatest possible openness and transparency.”
But that was not enough for investors and analysts. David Papier, head of sales trading at ETX Capital, told City A.M. that "someone needs to fall on the sword".
"Ultimately responsibility lies with the chief executive as he is the one who has been signing it off… [But] if there is a class action lawsuit and it is proved that senior management have lied about it then there will need to be further action against management," Papier added.
"I keep hearing that this is going to be the equivalent to the Libor scandal for the auto industry. I think the jury is still out on that, but certainly it could have major reputational damage. These car companies fall over themselves to say how clean they are, but the fact is they have been caught lying red-handed, and a number of people may have to pay the price."
UBS analyst Philippe Houchois agreed. "We see high probability that chief executive Winterkorn will resign if the group is found to have acted improperly," he said in a note today. "This would reverse newfound stability but support a more aggressive approach to the turnaround."
And he warned there could be a wider knock-on effect for the diesel industry, saying there would be "renewed focus on the current European regulation on emissions where targets remain disconnected from real-life emissions and NOx compliance is proving challenging".
"We also believe these event will accelerate the demise of diesel in Europe, at least in C segment and below," he added.
Volkswagen's share price has plummeted more than 33 per cent in the last two days. France has joined South Korea in launching an investigation into potential emissions breaches.
Spechen sie Deutsch? Below is the video that Volkswagen issued this afternoon…