Former Audi Chief to Plead Guilty in Emissions Scandal

Rupert Stadler, former chief executive of automaker Volkswagen’s Audi division, has agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the massive emissions fraud scandal in Germany, a case that changed the direction of the car. became the highest-ranking official to be convicted in industry.

The Munich State Court said Wednesday that Stadler will accept the plea bargain offered by the judge. This includes a suspended sentence of up to two years in exchange for a full confession and payment of a fine of €1.1 million or $1.2 million.

Stadler, 60, who was also a member of Volkswagen’s board of directors, said in 2015 that his parent company admitted that millions of its vehicles had software designed to hide excesses. was accused of allowing Audi to continue selling diesel vehicles. emissions.

The scandal cost Volkswagen tens of billions of dollars in fines, settlements and legal fees, and had a lasting impact on the auto industry. This has led European lawmakers to impose much tighter limits on vehicle emissions, accelerating the shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Volkswagen became one of the first major German car manufacturers to invest heavily in battery power. Executives embraced battery power as a way to restore the company’s tarnished reputation.

Stadler has been on trial in Munich since September 2020. His testimony was coming to an end last week when Judge Stefan Weickert offered him a deal. In Germany, evidence is usually heard intermittently and trials can last for years. A judge may offer a plea bargain to a defendant after concluding that the evidence against the defendant is strong.

Wolfgang Hatz, who headed motor development at Audi and Porsche and was on trial alongside Stadler, pleaded guilty to related charges last week. A third defendant, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, a former Audi executive who worked on the design of emission systems, also accepted a plea bargain.

During the trial, Stadler insisted he had done nothing wrong, but agreed to accept a plea bargain at a hearing on Wednesday morning, the court said. The prosecutor in the case also supports the deal.

Stadler is expected to confess within two weeks and the trial could be completed by late June, the court said.

The two men were among Volkswagen’s most influential executives. Volkswagen continues to argue in court that the wrongdoing was the work of middle management who hid the wrongdoing from management.

After serving as chief of staff for Ferdinand Piëch, a descendant of the Porsche family that ruled Volkswagen for 20 years beginning in the 1990s, Stadler became one of Volkswagen’s most profitable brands in 2007. I became chief of Audi. Stadler left his Audi in 2018 after spending several months in pretrial detention.

In 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to fraud and other federal indictments in Washington after admitting its technicians rigged emissions tests on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles sold in the United States. rice field. The car was programmed to recognize that it was being tested on rollers in the lab. If so, the car produced compliant emissions.

On the road, when regulators weren’t on the lookout, cars produced more toxic nitrogen oxides than long-haul trucks. Volkswagen diesels have consistently failed to meet emissions standards without engine damage.

According to testimony and court documents, the software that enabled the cheating was originally developed by Audi, and was released in 2007 after Volkswagen engineers struggled to bring their diesel engines to U.S. standards. Modified. The illegal software was also deployed in Europe and elsewhere.

Volkswagen paid $4.7 billion in criminal and civil penalties as part of a 2017 settlement with US authorities. The company also paid him $15 billion as part of settlements with owners of diesel vehicles from Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche.

The confessions of Stadler and Hutz carry far less punishment than two lower-level officials, Oliver Schmidt and James Liang, who were arrested in the United States and served multiple years in prison after pleading guilty. It means that it can withstand

Another trial of several former Volkswagen managers is underway in Braunschweig. At least six others he was indicted in the United States, but not arrested.

Martin Winterkorn, who was Volkswagen’s chief executive until his resignation in 2015 after cheating came to light, faces indictments in the US and Germany as he stands trial on health grounds. I doubt if. he denied any wrongdoing.

Volkswagen continues to struggle in the aftermath of the scandal. The Securities and Exchange Commission is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the company, accusing it of defrauding bond investors without giving full notice of the extent of its wrongdoing. It is scheduled to go to court next year.

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