Volkswagen finance chief appointed board chairman after scandal

Published October 2nd, 2015 - 07:37 GMT

Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen has set up an external probe into its exhaust emissions scandal with directors agreeing to appoint Dieter Poetsch as the group's new board chairman, the company said on Thursday.

The powerful five-member presidium of VW's supervisory board agreed at a seven-hour meeting on Wednesday to appoint as planned Poestch as supervisory board chairman to help steer the group out of the biggest crisis in its 78-year history.

The presidium - comprising representatives of key shareholders, managers and union officials - also said it had asked the US law firm Jones Day to conduct an external inquiry into the scandal.

The affair followed VW's admission last week that it had fitted its diesel models with software designed to evade emissions tests.

Up to about 11 million vehicles around the world are likely to have been equipped with the software, VW said.

The investigation into the scandal is expected to take several months, VW said. The group is to hold an extraordinary annual general meeting on November 9.

German transport department head Matthias Machnig said Thursday on the margins of EU talks in Luxembourg that the authorities had given VW until October 7 to provide detailed figures on the scale of the scandal.

This included the number of vehicles fitted with the illegal software and how the company planned to help consumers and solve the technical issues that have been revealed by the affair.

VW also promised to "report to shareholders on all relevant topics in the near future and at regular intervals," adding that the Jones Day investigation would be carried out "independently."

"Only when we have established exactly what happened will I be able to give you a detailed response," VW's new chief executive Matthias Mueller said in a letter to shareholders.

EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said in Luxembourg that she encouraged the bloc's ministers to launch national investigations into the problem, and that she had no evidence so far of emissions fraud in Europe or other carmakers employing such measures.

Luxembourg Economy Minister Etienne Schneider, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the ministers are "really trusting the crisis management of the German government ... and also the crisis management of Volkswagen."

The 64-year-old Poetsch is to take over as the board's new chairman from Ferdinand Piech, who resigned earlier this year after a company power struggle.

German media had raised questions about whether VW would go ahead with Poetsch's appointment because he had been a senior manager during the period when the emission manipulations were alleged to have taken place.

However, VW's key shareholders - the Porsche and Piech families - publicly backed Poetsch ahead of Wednesday's meeting, which had been called to take stock of the scandal.

VW financial services chief Frank Witter, 56, is to succeed Poetsch as group chief financial officer. Poetsch has held the post since 2003.

The board's decisions came as VW faces the threat of billions for fines around the world for operating the emissions test defeating scheme.

Australia's corporate watchdog said Thursday that VW could face a series of multi-million dollar fines if it is found to have breached the nation's consumer laws by making false claims about its vehicles.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims said using devices aimed at defeating mandatory safety standards was prohibited under consumer law.

"This enforcement investigation is a priority for the ACCC. We are very concerned about the potential consumer and competition detriment from this alleged conduct," Sims said in a statement.

The maximum penalty per breach of consumer law is 1.1 million Australian dollars (775,000 US dollars) for a corporation.

A spokesman for ACCC told dpa this penalty would apply to each vehicle sold that is fitted with an active defeat device.

Sims said the ACCC was still waiting for Volkswagen to clarify whether it supplied vehicles or components to the Australian market that use "defeat devices" used to make vehicles perform better in testing that in real world operations.

Volkswagen sold 37,000 vehicles in Australia in the first six months of 2015, and VW accounts for 6 per cent of the Australian car market. Around 50,000 diesel VW vehicles have been sold in Australia since 2009.

By Andrew McCathie

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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