Martin Winterkorn is the former chair of the Volkswagen group. Before taking up his position as chair of the Volkswagen group, he was the chairperson of Audi AG a subsidiary of the Volkswagen group. His education background was in metal research and metal physics. He first got into Volkswagen in 1993 as head of Volkswagen quality assurance. From there, he rose through the ranks to become chairperson of the automotive giant in 2007. Volkswagen group is the worlds second largest motor vehicle manufacturer behind Toyota of Japan. The group manufactures vehicles under multiple brands including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Scania, Seat, Skoda, and Ducati. The company was founded in 1937 to manufacture one of the most iconic vehicles, the Volkswagen beetle. Over the years, it introduced other models including the combi van, which is one of the most recognizable vehicles, and the golf, which is one of the bestselling models of all time.
In late 2015, an investigation in the United States discovered that some of the companys vehicles had been fitted with a cheat device that was able to sense when the car was in testing mode and limit emissions. The cheat device was designed to identify a number of parameters that showed the vehicle was being tested. The vehicle could then adapt to limit emissions during the test. However, in reality, it was discovered that the vehicles polluted up to 40 times more than the actual figures showed. The cheat deice was identified in the diesel models sold by the manufacturer.
The vehicle manufacturing industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Manufacturers usually try every possible way to gain an advantage over the competition in order to increase sales. For a long time, Volkswagen was a leader in manufacturing diesel engines, which were mostly sold in Europe. The diesel engines were said to be more reliable, offer more power and were clean. However, diesel sales were not as popular in North America which until recently was the worlds largest car market. Volkswagen tried to introduce its diesel engines into this market with the aim of getting a good market share. However, North American emission standards are higher than European standards and this resulted in the company opting for unethical means to meet these standards. The emission cheating devices were introduced in the companys vehicles that allowed them to pass the strict emission tests before they could be allowed in the market.
Furthermore, because of the illegal cheat devices, Volkswagen was able to introduce its diesel engines into the market. However, after the scandal erupted, there were consequences both for the organization and for the chairperson. Martin Winterkom was forced to resign from his position at Volkswagen and Audi soon after the scandal. Apart from being forced to resign, the former chairperson is also likely to face criminal charges because of the scandal. Volkswagen group was greatly affected by the scandal. The company was forced to recall millions of vehicles already in the market and correct the mistake at its own cost. The company is also likely to face legal claims, which have resulted in the company setting aside in excess of $20 billion to deal with these legal issues. Following the scandal and subsequent drops in sales, the company made a loss for the first time in many years.
The mistake could have been corrected by proper engineering. The remedial measures taken after the scandal show that the solution would have been easy to implement in the first place before the scandal damaged the image of the company. Additionally, most of the accusations at Winterkom are because as the leader of the company, he was aware of what was going on and he should have acted earlier. Reports from former employees indicate that he might have been aware of the devices for well over ten years before the scandal.
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