Currently reading: Volkswagen seeking Dieselgate damages from former bosses
Car firm accuses former CEO Martin Winterkorn and ex-Audi chief Rupert Stadler of breaching 'duty of care' in response to emissions scandal

Volkswagen will seek damages from former chief executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi boss Rupert Stadler for what it claims are "breaches of duty of care" related to the diesel emissions cheating scandal.

The car maker has decided to launch the action against the two following the conclusion of a six-year investigation to determine responsibility for the Dieselgate scandal. Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had sold more than 10 million diesel vehicles fitted with 'defeat device' software that artificially lowered emissions during laboratory testing. The firm has paid out more than £20 billion in fines.

Volkswagen's supervisory board tasked law firm Geliss Lutz with reviewing liability claims against all members of the board. Volkswagen says the investigation found both Winterkorn and Stadler breached their 'duty of care', but no breaches of duty were found by other members of the Volkswagen supervisory board.

As a result, the supervisory board said it has decided "to assert claims for damages" against Winterkorn and Stadler, "on account of breaches of the duty of care under stock corporation law".

Winterkorn resigned from his role in September 2015, while Stadler remained at Audi until he was arrested in 2018. Both men are facing criminal charges in Germany relating to the scandal, with Stadler currently on trial in Munich. 

The supervisory board claims that Winterkorn breached his duty of care by failing, in a period from 27 July 2015 onwards, to "comprehensively and promptly clarify the circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions in 2.0 TDI diesel engines sold in the North American market between 2009 and 2015." It added that "Winterkorn also failed to ensure that the questions asked by the US authorities in this context were answered truthfully, completely and without delay."

The board claims that Stadler, in the period from 21 September 2016 onwards, failed "to ensure that 3.0 and 4.2 V-TDI diesel engines developed by Audi and installed in EU vehicles of Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche were investigated with regard to unlawful software functions."

Based on information from the same investigation, the supervisory boards of Audi and Porsche have also accused former Audi board members Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch and ex-Porsche board member Wolfgang Hatz of breaches of duty. Audi and Porsche have launched claims for damages against them.

Claims of damages have already been made against former Volkswagen Passenger Cars board member Heinz-Jakob Neusser.

Volkswagen has previously claimed that the diesel emissions scandal was the fault of a rogue employee. It is facing a number of lawsuits that accuse the firm of trying to cover up the scandal from when questions first arose about the test rules in June 2015 until VW admitted fault in September that year.

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Winterkorn's lawyers issued a statement saying he rejected the allegations. Lawyers for Stadler declined to comment when contacted by the Reuters news agency.


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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Citytiger 28 March 2021

Just when you think they cant get any lower, up they pop looking for a scapegoat.. What are they going to do, try and claim back the £20bn+ they have paid out in fines, saying "It wasnt us guv it was them, onest".  

Lapps 27 March 2021

Just when you think the commercial face of the VAG Group can't get any more ugly!

wonder what the current incumbents of those Positions think and what the decision does for their morale?  

jason_recliner 27 March 2021

VW.  Still the worst organisation in the world.  Why anbody would be stupid enough to buy one of their products is beyond me.

Crash Gordon 28 March 2021
jason_recliner wrote:

VW.  Still the worst organisation in the world.  Why anbody would be stupid enough to buy one of their products is beyond me.

Helped me pay less tax to the UK government, so not all bad.