Thirty VW Executives Knew About Diesel Cheat-Mode, Claims German Newspaper

Ever since Volkswagen was caught cheating U.S. EPA tests by fitting certain diesel-engined vehicles with a special software ‘cheat mode’ designed to convince authorities that the cars they were fitted in met emissions targets, Volkswagen’s official corporate line has been to claim that a few bad apples — rather than the entire management structure — were to blame for the illegal activity.

Horn has claimed the debacle was caused by a few rouge engineers -- but now it appears as many as 30 executives knew.

Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen of America, has claimed the debacle was caused by a few rogue engineers — but now it appears as many as 30 executives knew what was going on.

Despite former CEO Martin Winterkorn and many of Volkswagen’s long-serving board members resigning over the incident, Volkswagen’s message has been fairly consistent: save for a few who oversaw development of the engine, few at the automaker knew of the fraud taking place beneath their noses.

So far, VW has managed to tow that company line, but claims German Newspaper Der Spiegel in an exclusive post earlier today, a total of at least 30 managers within the company knew Volkswagen’s EA189 diesel engine contained software specifically designed to cheat emissions testing.

If true, it could prove the final nail in the coffin of a company struggling to keep its reputation intact.

The newspaper, citing both results of Volkswagen’s own internal investigation and an external investigation carried out by U.S. law firm Jones Day, says that the corruption within the company was far more widespread than Volkswagen’s initial claims implied.

Der Spiegel also quotes an inside anonymous engineer at the firm, who said that any diesel engine — including the EA188 EA189 and EA288 diesel engines — that could get by without the need for expensive urea injection systems should have made “any engine developers leery.”

That statement, combined with the supposed 30+ managers now believed to have been implicated by the two investigations will likely result in further suspensions and firings. In some cases, it could even lead to criminal prosecution.

We'll find out more tomorrow morning.

We’ll find out more tomorrow morning.

What isn’t clear at this time however is if Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen of America, will be one of the 30 executives believed to now be connected to the scandal. In his testament last week to a U.S. house committee, Horn stated that the entire debacle was the fault of a few individuals rather than the company as a whole.

If that now proves not to be the case — and Horn is among those who knew about the deception — things could get very bad for the executive very quickly.

We’ll know more tomorrow, when VW is expected to hold another board meeting to discuss the findings of both its internal interim investigation and the formal external investigation by Jones Day.

In the meantime, we’re expecting few in Volkswagen’s board of management will have had a good night’s sleep.


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  • Chris O

    Seems to me that i’ts not just VW personnel that must have been aware of the cheating but also VW’s competitors must have known about it. After all the industry is renown for taking apart each others products to see “how they did it” and VWs competitors must have wondered how VW managed very low emission values without resorting to elaborate emission treatment systems only to find out it didn’t really.

    So why did no one talk? Maybe nobody in the industry needed extra scrutiny on real world emission values?

    • MEroller

      I had a very interesting discussion today with a work colleague: in his former employment, also with an automotive supplier, they had taken an EU5 VW EA189 2l TDI Engine as a basis for providing add-on technology to get it to comply with EU6 emission limits, as a technology demonstrator. But they had found the task unexpectedly daunting, as the engine was found to emit far higher NOx pollutants than a EU5-compliant calibration should have, more on par with EU3 / 4 levels, thus making it close to impossible to get to EU6 levels with their add-on technology. At the time they blamed the high emissions on some strange quirk of that single engine, and on their own calibration abilities as they were using a separate open ECU, and continued their project by simply recording the percentage delta they could achieve to their own original calibration. But they DID test with the OEM ECU also and found it complies with EU5 limits, thus further driving home their notion it was their own inability to replicate the original calibration on their open ECU. This scandal of course vindicates them from this perceived inability 🙂