Volkswagen: ‘Chain of Mistakes and ‘Insufficient’ IT Infrastructure Led to Dieselgate

By Christian Stampfer on 10 December 2015
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MUNICH—Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal was the result of a “chain of mistakes,” a “Fehlerkette” in German, which began in 2005 when the automaker saw an opportunity to develop a niche market in diesel-powered automobiles in the United States, Hans Dieter Pötsch, the company’s chairman, said Thursday.

Realizing that the company could not legally meet current U.S. emissions standards, Pötsch explained, its engineers developed software that would allow its vehicles to detect when an emissions test was taking place and limit nitrogen-oxide emissions at that time.

“We’re not talking about one mistake, rather from a chain of errors,” Pötsch said.

Volkswagen said that findings from the independent two-part investigation, managed by law firm Jones Day, are still months away. The lawyers have secured 102 terabytes of data, 1,500 computers, smartphones, and other sources of data, telling a number of employees not to delete anything from their devices. Over 380 VW employees are involved in the investigation.

Prior to today’s announcement, Volkswagen had stated that only a handful of company employees were complicit in committing the fraud. Pötsch confirmed that nine employees were terminated but said it was unclear if any or all were guilty of malfeasance.

Volkswagen said that engineers had developed software that would lower nitrogen oxide emissions in many of its diesel engines after coming to the realization that there was no legal way to meet current U.S. emissions standards “within the required time frame and budget.” The automaker attributed this to the “misconduct and shortcomings of individual employees,” as well as “weaknesses in some processes,” and a “mindset in some areas of the Company that tolerated breaches of rules.”

The investigation revealed that the fraud was hard to detect because both the company’s IT infrastructure as well as its engine approval processes were “insufficient.”

Looking ahead, Pötsch said that the automaker “will not allow the crisis to paralyze us” and will “use it as a catalyst to make the changes Volkswagen needs.”

The presence of emissions-cheating software in its diesel vehicles was first revealed in September. Volkswagen has since admitted that such software had been installed in over 11 million vehicles sold worldwide.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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