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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Person of the week
Martin Winterkorn resigns as Volkswagen CEO
     2015-September-25  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, ousted on Wednesday after the company admitted deliberately falsifying U.S. diesel emissions tests, is perhaps best known for his near-obsessive attention to detail.

MARTIN WINTERKORN, the embattled chief executive of Volkswagen (VW), has announced that he will resign following the scandal surrounding the emissions of its diesel cars.

    In a statement issued by the company Winterkorn said he was “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.”

    The world’s second-largest carmaker is being engulfed by an emissions scandal that has wiped nearly 26 billion euros (US$29 billion) off its market value this week. In this kind of situation, with 11 million cars potentially affected, jobs are put in jeopardy and even once-mighty companies can be permanently damaged.

    The speed at which VW moved to clean the slate—five days—stands in marked contrast to the sometimes protracted recalls of other automakers. Toyota, for example, took several years over its recalls.

    Volkswagen is said to have been caught cheating on U.S. air pollution tests. VW installed sophisticated software known as “defeat devices” in the electronic control module of diesel vehicles issued between 2008 and 2015.

    A successor will be determined at Friday’s supervisory board meeting. However, rumors earlier suggested he might be replaced by Porsche President and CEO Matthias Muller, Audi chief Rupert Stadler and VW brand head Herbert Diess, although Volkswagen has denied this.

    More people can be expected to follow Winterkorn out of the carmaker due to the scandal.

    Winterkorn has become the public face of the scandal, with allegations that he ignored warning signs about the emissions in 2014. In a video on the carmaker’s website Tuesday, he admitted, “I do not have all the answers to the questions but we are working hard to find out exactly what happened.”

    In stepping down Wednesday, Winterkorn said he was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part” but had accepted the “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.”

    What’s unclear is whether Winterkorn knew about the installation of the defeat devices that allowed the cars to pass official environmental tests. Investors may find it unforgivable if he condoned or ordered their use—but it could be just as problematic if he did not know the devices were installed, as this would suggest a lack of oversight.

    The embattled CEO seemed to have clinched a two-year contract extension earlier this year after a leadership battle with longstanding Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who all but publicly criticized Winterkorn’s performance. But Winterkorn won over shareholder support and the showdown saw Piech resign in April.

    As chief executive of the world’s biggest carmaker, Winterkorn enjoyed a prestige that extended well beyond the company’s headquarters in the German city of Wolfsburg.

    Last year, Forbes business magazine placed him 58th in its list of the world’s most powerful people, comfortably ahead of the leaders of Mexico and Japan, although a few rungs below the head of the Islamic State militant group.

    But in the light of subsequent events, its account of 68-year-old Winterkorn’s achievements appears to foreshadow his downfall.

    Forbes said at the time that he “urged European regulators not to overburden the automotive industry with excessive emission targets, citing a lack of time to develop fuel-efficient technology and the economic downturn as major concerns.”

    The piece went on to say that “the topic is especially close to Winterkorn.” If it wasn’t then, observers might say, it certainly is now, given the scandal over the rigging of emissions test results for VW’s diesel-powered cars in the United States.

    Winterkorn had been at the helm of Volkswagen since the beginning of 2007, but this year it all turned sour.

    The emissions crisis that forced him out came just five months after he saw off another challenge to his leadership. On that occasion, however, internal company politics, not external regulators, were at the heart of the matter.

    For reasons that remain unclear, the company’s chairman at the time, Ferdinand Piech, moved against Winterkorn, expressing critical views of him in an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine.

    Until that point, the two men had been seen as close allies. But according to unconfirmed reports, the bone of contention was the firm’s difficulties in cracking the U.S. market — again, a point that appears prophetic when viewed in retrospect.

    The dispute between the two men caused disruptions within the car giant’s complex power structure.

    Piech must have been confident of winning the battle, since he is part of the Porsche family, which controls nearly 51 percent of VW.

    But Wolfgang Porsche, a member of the five-strong executive committee and a cousin of Piech, said he had given his “personal opinion” without clearing his remarks with other family members.

    In the end, Piech had to step down after the board gave its backing to Winterkorn, as did trade union leaders and politicians.

    Before ascending to the pinnacles of management, Winterkorn had a strong track record in engineering.

    He spent a lengthy period of time as a student, as many Germans do, and was pushing 30 when he received his doctorate in metal physics and got his first job at the Bosch electronics conglomerate.

    He moved to VW in 1993 as head of group quality assurance, rising swiftly through the ranks from then on.

    He became heavily involved with technical development, both at VW and at its Audi subsidiary, and is given credit for his key role in getting the top brass to put the revived Beetle into production.

    On his way up, he became determined to take on all comers, vowing to turn VW into the world’s biggest car company, at a time when Toyota and General Motors appeared to be the main contenders.

    Earlier this year, his wish finally came true when figures for the first half of 2015 showed that VW had outstripped Toyota in global vehicle sales.

    Now that victory is starting to look hollow. And it could be unsustainable, too, given that the emissions scandal has probably inflicted lasting reputational damage on the VW brand.(SD-Agencies)

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