Top bosses at embattled German auto giant Volkswagen (VW) on Wednesday sought to placate angry shareholders over the emissions cheating scandal that has plunged the group into an unprecedented crisis.
Facing an annual general shareholders meeting for the first time since the scandal erupted in September, Chief Executive Officer of VW, Matthias Mueller said, “On behalf of the Volkswagen Group and everyone who works here, I apologise to you shareholders for your trust in Volkswagen being betrayed.”
“This misconduct goes against everything that Volkswagen stands for,” he added nine months after the start of the Dieselgate affair, when it emerged VW had installed emissions-cheating software into 11 million diesel engines worldwide.
Volkswagen is still far from drawing a line under the scandal, with the costs of the affair still incalculable while it remains unclear if the company’s own internal investigation will pinpoint the major culprits behind the scandal.
Shareholders used the Annual General Meeting in the northern city of Hanover to let off steam at the way management has handled the affair.
Two days ahead of the meeting, prosecutors provided more fodder to irate shareholders when they said they were investigating former VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn for having allegedly manipulated the market by holding back information about the emissions cheating.
A second former member of the board was also under probe, prosecutors said, without giving the individual’s name, but a Volkswagen spokesman told AFP that the suspect was Herbert Diess — who is in charge of the VW brand.
Listed companies are required to disclose information that could affect market prices immediately.
But VW complied with its disclosure obligation only on September 22, 2015, prosecutors said, four days after US regulators went public that they were charging the company for emissions cheating.
The allegations were already raised by shareholders early on in the scandal. They accused management of dragging their feet in informing them about the scam, which led to a stunning 40% drop in the company’s share price last autumn.
The stock has since recovered somewhat, but is still 26% below the levels before the scandal broke last September, and the company’s finances also remain weak.