Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Winterkorn experiences his own downfall

A great many thoughts must be whizzing through the brain of Ferdinand Piech, who resigned earlier this year in favour of Professor Martin Winterkorn who has himself now resigned.
It is but five months since Winterkorn, the chief executive of Volkswagen, Germany’s highest paid executive, chalked up a major victory against the company’s chairman and his erstwhile friend after receiving the backing of directors in a power struggle that at the time held the country’s corporate world enthralled.

The decision of VW’s steering committee to endorse Martin Winterkorn as the “best possible CEO of Volkswagen” was a rare defeat for long-standing chairman Ferdinand Piech, the patriarch of the founding family who at the time had sought to oust the 67-year-old from his post.

Now Volkswagen Group’s so-called emissions cheating scandal has cost Winterkorn his job.

Bearing in Winterkorn’s focus on attention to detail it is hard to imagine why this manipulation of software central to diesel car emissions would be allowed to pass under the door and out into vehicles bought on the street.

It is one thing to play about with these software devices in the laboratory but quite another to deliberately introduce them into street machines. NOx, although invisible, remains nasty stuff.

There are many motives that might tempt a vehicle manufacturer to manipulate engine controls in order to improve fuel economy, and one of these is looming US greenhouse gas (GHG) control legislation.

Any ‘technology’ – hard or soft – that can be employed to boost engine efficiency and hence fuel economy, thereby cutting CO2 emissions, remains high on the agenda of any R&D department.

As such, any device to secure GHG reduction at the risk of pushing on-the-road NOx levels beyond regulatory limits therefore might prove an irresistible temptation.   

For, if the NOx levels are allowed to rise by some means or other, then this gives the vehicle manufacturer the opportunity to either reduce the levels of GHG emissions or improve performance.

All of which raises the question: would the man in the street be able to detect that his vehicle is ‘peppier’ or less fuel thirsty given that the NOx levels are higher than local legislation requires? How many people measure acceleration to the nearest 0.5s, or the fuel economy of their vehicles to the nearest decimal point?

So the question at the heart of the issue remains: who and why would someone or some people want to introduce technology that could result in the downfall of a company, not to mention the downfall of senior people, unless for some reason they wished to undermine the entire group?     

In his statement of 23 September, Professor Winterkorn said: “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.

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. 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.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

And Winterkorn gets a full pension of 32 million dollars and a free car.....
for driving it all into the ditch