Embattled carmaker Volkswagen has appointed Porsche chief Matthias Mueller to steer it out of the wreckage of the widening emissions cheating scandal.
Alongside Mueller’s appointment, the supervisory board also approved changes to the management structure – aimed, the company said, at scaling back complexity and strengthening brands and regions.
Mueller will also keep his position as Porsche CEO until a suitable replacement is found.
He had been tipped to replace Winterkorn during the latter’s bitter feud with his one-time mentor and former supervisory board chief Ferdinand Piech earlier this year.
Volkswagen rigged emission tests on about 2.8 million diesel vehicles in Germany, the country’s transport minister said on Friday, almost six times as many as it has admitted to falsifying in the United States.
Switzerland has banned the sale of Volkswagen cars caught up in the emissions scandal.
German regulators are carrying out spot checks on diesel cars made by Volkswagen and other manufacturers, and Britain is rerunning laboratory tests and comparing them with “real world driving emissions” to try to establish the scale of the problem.
The new CEO will also need to improve communications with dealers and customers, with many frustrated that Volkswagen has yet to say which models and construction years are affected by the crisis and whether cars will have to be refitted.
The 62-year-old Mueller, who has headed Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche, pledged to help the automaker get through the biggest business crisis in its 78-year history.
“Our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you”, he said.
The US’s Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) findings of the scandal cover 482,000 cars in the USA only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat.
“The artificial gaming of emissions tests threatens to become the vehicle industry’s Libor moment”, he told the newspaper.
VW later acknowledged that similar software exists in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide but hasn’t given details of the models and their whereabouts.
“We can’t just rely on tests in the lab”, she said, adding future tests should focus more on normal road conditions.
On Thursday, attorneys general in at least 27 US states and Washington, D.C. announced they would jointly investigate VW’s representations to consumers and would send subpoenas to the company, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. The company now faces a mountain of difficulties, from class action lawsuits to fixing the software itself.