Oops. Former Volkswagen Chief Martin Winterkorn missed it. At least, that’s what Volkswagen would have us believe according to new details about who knew what, when in the TDI emissions scandal that sent the company into a tailspin last fall.
In new documents, Volkswagen outlines how the former VW head received several memos in 2014 which detailed the discrepancies of VW’s diesel engines, that it later admitted contained cheating devices to beat strict U.S. emissions tests.
The problem is that, according to VW, Winterkorn possibly didn’t read the fine print in the memos because he was too consumed running Volkswagen’s 12 brands. In other words, they say he missed it. And a May 2014 memo in particular.
“This memo was included in his extensive weekend mail,” VW said in a statement. “Whether and to which extent Mr. Winterkorn took notice of this memo at that time is not documented. According to current knowledge, the diesel matter, as it was treated as one of many product issues facing the Company, did not initially receive particular attention at the management levels of Volkswagen.”
Volkswagen execs also say Winterkorn received a memo in November of 2014 that referred to a cost framework for the U.S. diesel issue and that he was also in a meeting that touched on the issue last summer, before the scandal broke in September.
VW released the timeline documents as part of defense filing arguments in a German case, where shareholders are suing. They claim the company was too slow to inform the public about investigations into its rigged diesel emissions.
The May 2014 memos is key to the case, because that’s when the California Air Resources Board found about the engine irregularities thanks to a study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation. CARB wasted no time in asking VW for answers about the companies TDI engines. VW investigated and in December 2014 notified CARB that it could recalibrate its EA 189 engine management software.
Volkswagen maintains that a group of unknown employees decided to install the emissions-rigging software in the TDI engines to meet the strict emissions requirements set by the U.S., but exactly who is responsible is still under investigation. VW plans to release preliminary results of its investigation in April.