Volkswagen’s chief executive was told about the company’s illegal emissions crisis more than a year before it admitted it was systematically cheating on US regulators tests.
The German company admitted on Wednesday that its former CEO Martin Winterkorn was in May 2014 sent a memo detailing how some VW cars were producing up to 35 times more nitrogen oxide emissions than allowed.
In the memo Winterkorn was told about an independent study that found VW cars were producing very high emissions in real life but very low emissions under strict test conditions.
Up until now the company has said Winterkorn – who resigned after the scandal broke in September 2015 – was unaware of the issue which was caused by an illegal ‘defeat device’ software VW installed in US cars specifically to trick US regulators.
In a statement on Wednesday the company continued to defend Winterkorn saying there was no evidence that he had read the memo which was included in ‘his extensive weekend mail’.
However VW said Winterkorn was told again about the problem in November 2014.
At that point he was told that fixing the problem in the US would cost about €20m (£14.2bn, $21.7m).
On 23 May 2014 a memo about the ICCT study was prepared for Martin Winterkorn then-Chairman of the Management Board of Volkswagen AG.
This memo was included in his extensive weekend mail.
Whether and to which extent Mr. Winterkorn took notice of this memo at that time is not documented.
On 14 November 2014 Mr. Winterkorn received another memo that reported amongst other things on several then current product defect cases and referred to a cost framework of approx. EUR 20 million for the diesel issue in North America.
The company still did not come clean about its systematic emissions cheating which was made public by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in September 2016.
The VW memo also reveals that Winterkorn and VW’s chairman Herbert Diess were present at a July 2015 meeting at which the diesel issue was discussed.