The scandal has so far cost the German car maker over 18 billion euros in fines and recall costs, as well as seen five former executives charged by the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Speaking before a parliament committee consisting of members from all of Germany’s major political parties, Winterkorn made a long-awaited statement on Volkswagen’s decision to manipulate emission tests of various diesel models.
In an opening declaration, Winterkorn took accountability for the scandal, saying, “As CEO, I bear responsibility for what has happened.”
However, the 69-year-old German denied any direct involvement in the decision-making processes that led to Volkswagen employing specially developed software used to detect when diesel models were running on test rigs and programmed to subsequently alter their engine performance to reduce both CO2 and NOx emissions well below that of real world driving levels.
"Everyone who knows me knows my love for detail, the perfect workmanship, we have invested countless hours in the search for the best solution,” said Winterkorn, who referred to his decision to resign as CEO of Volkswagen on 23 September 2015, as “the hardest of my life."
In another round of questions posed by various German politicians, Winterkorn strenuously rebuffed suggestions he had early knowledge of Volkswagen’s efforts to manipulate emission results and pending legal action by the US’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying, “This was not the case”.