The engineers include Ulrich Hackenberg, chief engineer at Audi, and Wolfgang Hatz, who developed Porsche’s Formula One racing engines. They were among the first engineers suspended after CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned.
Winterkorn became CEO of VW in January 2007 and set lofty sales goals in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Under his command, VW was selling 10 million cars per year by 2014. One in four cars sold in Europe were made by VW.
The problem was in the United Sates, where diesel cars are less popular. Air-quality laws limiting emissions are also stricter than in Europe.
When engineers at VW expressed concern that a diesel engine prototype licensed from Daimler would not meet American emissions laws, Winterkorn abandoned it and tasked Hackenberg and Hatz with creating a “turbocharged direct injection” (TDI) diesel engine.
In September 2015, VW admitted installing illegal emissions-cheating software on 11 million cars with EA 189 diesel engines sometime before it went into production in 2008. A spokesman for VW said:
“Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board, and with all of you. We’ve totally screwed up.”
The investigation could potentially lead to jail time for executives who were responsible for decisions that put the software on millions of cars. Just before the scandal broke, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its intention to prosecute more individuals for corporate wrongdoing.