VW’s CEO will plead case to advisory boardVolkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn will get a chance to make his case before the executive committee of the automaker’s supervisory board on Wednesday.
A critical point in the discussion will be what Winterkorn knew about a scheme intended to dupe regulators and consumers about emissions of diesel engines installed in 11 million cars worldwide, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
The 68-year-old CEO’s survival hangs on convincing a few key power players, including Wolfgang Porsche, head of the family that controls a majority of VW’s voting shares; Bernd Osterloh, VW’s influential labor leader; and Stephan Weil, prime minister of Lower Saxony, which has special blocking rights at the company. All three are on committee, which is set to vote on his future.
The group first met Tuesday evening to begin discussing how to handle the crisis as the German government demands the automaker take quick action, one person familiar with the discussion said. Talks may continue on Friday at a gathering of the full 20-person board, which plays an oversight role.
Pressure is building amid the widening scandal over diesel engines that cheated U.S. air-pollution tests. Winterkorn, who has run the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company since 2007, is responsible for product strategy, putting him at the center of the storm that’s wiped out about 24 billion euros ($26.7 billion) in Volkswagen’s market value since the start of the week.
When former Chairman Ferdinand Piech sought to oust Winterkorn in April, VW’s key figures quickly rallied behind the CEO. That hasn’t been the case during the current scandal.
Winterkorn hasn’t specifically commented on his role in rigging VW cars, which emitted as much as 40 times the legal limit of pollutants when they were on the road, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges.
“Winterkorn’s personal brand has been built on being ... the ‘detail main’,” Max Warburton, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein and Company, said in a note. “This is an engineer, who theoretically should have asked questions about how VW suddenly improved its emissions to meet Californian standards.” Bloomberg