Falko Rudolph, who was VW's head of diesel engine development at the firm's Kassel plant between 2006 and 2010, has reportedly been suspended following the results of an internal investigation, according to news agency Reuters.
Volkswagen is holding an internal investigation into the source of the emissions scandal which has engulfed the company. This latest news comes after German prosecutors announced they would be opening a formal investigation into former Volkswagen Group boss Martin Winterkorn.
The prosecutor’s office in Germany said that Winterkorn is being investigated over “allegations of fraud in the sale of cars with manipulated emissions data.”
In Germany, anyone can file a complaint with the prosecutors, and several were filed as a result of the emissions scandal last week. The prosecutors then decide whether to open a formal investigation, which has now happened.
Executives on leave
Several VW executives are also reported to be on official leave from the company, with Audi R&D boss Ulrich Hackenberg, VW R&D chief Heinz Jakob Neusser and Porsche board member Wolfgang Hatz all said to be suspended - although this has yet to be confirmed.
Hackenberg is a long-time board member of the VW Group, and has had responsiblity for development for the Group as a whole and, more recently, Audi. Hatz is the VW Group's head of engines and transmissions, as well as being the research and development boss of Porsche. None of the three has been formally connected with an active role in the scandal, however.
Following chairman and CEO Martin Winterkorn's departure, the board of executives that governs Volkswagen AG had suggested that he wouldn't be the last top-line employee to leave his post as a result of the emissions testing scandal. A statement read: "With the information currently available the supervisory board recommended the immediate suspension of some employees. This process is already underway."
Already Christian Klinger, the VW Group's boss of sales and marketing and after-sales has left the firm "due to differences with regard to business strategy". VW confirmed Klinger's departure was unrelated to the emissions scandal. Former Skoda boss Winfried Vahland has also left the firm, and won't be taking up his new role as VW's US chief.
The VW Group executive committee has stated that it could pursue criminal proceedings against those found to be responsible for the manipulation. It will voluntarily submit a complaint to the State Prosecutors’ office and offer full support for any subsequent investigation.
Winterkorn announced his resignation in the wake of the scandal about a software cheat in American NOx emissions tests. The 68-year-old executive, who fought off Ferdinand Piech in a power struggle earlier this year, had been expected to have a fresh contract extension ratified by VW’s supervisory board this week.
An official statement from Winterkorn said: "I am clearing the way for a fresh start. 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.
“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. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.
“Volkswagen needs a fresh start - also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.
“I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life.
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
The VW Group's interim chairman Berthold Huber said: "Mr Winterkorn has worked hard for VW and we would like to thank him for his efforts over the past 10 years, and also for his willingness to take responsibility in this most difficult of situations."
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