Volkswagen has admitted that then CEO Martin Winterkorn was first aware of the NOx emissions irregularities with its EA189 diesel engine in 2014, but has denied that it misled shareholders by withholding the information until September 2015.
The revelation came in an official statement by VW outlining the timeline of events, as part of its defence against legal action by shareholders who say the company illegally withheld information regarding the scandal.
The chief purpose of VW’s carefully worded statement is to explain its defence of legal action, but it also offers a fascinating timeline of events that unfolded in the build-up to the scandal for the first time.
VW traces the scandal back to 2005, when it decided to launch diesel engines in the US. It would do so with the EA189 engine, but US regulations were far stricter than those in Europe, with the 31mg/km nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions limit six times less than that allowed under EU5 law at the time. VW says that reducing the NOx emissions would impact on CO2 emissions.
During development of the EA189 for the US, VW says that “a group of persons – whose identity is still being determined – at levels below the group's management board in the powertrain development division, decided to modify the engine management software”.
This act, VW says, produced emissions values in bench testing that “differed substantially from those under real driving conditions”.
VW says that this was done by a “significant modification of the existing engine management software” and was done so with “relatively small changes and within the budget that was available for the development of the engine management software and without the need to involve superior levels”.