Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigns over emissions scandal

Martin Winterkorn says he is resigning as chief executive of the Volkswagen Group after an emissions scandal plunged the company into crisis.

"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 said in a statement. "As CEO 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 CEO of the Volkswagen Group."

Winterkorn added: "I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part."

The resignation comes about a week after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009 through 2015 were found to include software that circumvents EPA emission standards for certain air pollutants. The agency explained that a "sophisticated software algorithm" was being used to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing and only fully turns on emissions controls during such tests.

As a result of the algorithm, cars meet emissions standards in the laboratory and testing station, but emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the national standard during normal operation. The discovery leaves the German car maker vulnerable to fines that could exceed $18 billion in the United States alone. Nitrogen oxide is linked to asthma and lung illnesses.

"Volkswagen needs a fresh start - also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation," Winterkorn said in Wednesday's statement. "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."

In addition to investigations by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARC), the U.S. Justice Department has also launched a criminal investigation into Volkswagen's actions.

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