Volkswagen chief quits over emissions scandal

Volkswagen chief quits over emissions scandal
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Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday amid an international scandal over the automaker skirting air pollution laws.

“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group,” Winterkorn said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon German time.

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“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the supervisory board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group,” he said. “I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.”

Volkswagen has been embroiled in scandal since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed Friday that the company programmed vehicles to trick emissions testers into believing that its diesel cars released a much lower volume of nitrogen oxide than they actually do.

A “defeat device” in the vehicles made it so that they would pass emissions tests. But in regular driving, they emitted up to 40 times more pollution.

Volkswagen has admitted to the accusations.

Wednesday’s announcement followed a round of tough questioning of Winterkorn by Volkswagen’s board, Reuters reported.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the scandal. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama is following the situation closely and his closest advisers are “quite concerned” about what is being revealed.

German prosecutors have launched a preliminary probe, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call for “full transparency” from Volkswagen, according to Reuters.

The United Kingdom has asked the European Commission to investigate, and France has promised “extremely severe” consequences if investigators find wrongdoing on the company’s part.

While the EPA initially identified fewer than 500,000 cars with the problem, Volkswagen has since announced that around 11 million cars sold worldwide are involved.