Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday as a ballooning scandal over falsified emissions tests rocked the German automaker and prompted a raft of investigations.
Following a marathon meeting with the executive committee of VW’s board, Winterkorn said he was “shocked” by the recent events and that the company needs a fresh start, Reuters reported.
But he insisted that he was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part”.
“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation,” Winterkorn said.
Volkswagen did not name a successor, but said proposals on management appointments would be made to a full board meeting on Friday.
Porsche chief Matthias Mueller, Audi chief Rupert Stadler and the head of the VW brand, Herbert Diess, are seen as the front-runners to replace Winterkorn, Reuters cited sources saying.
Mueller is seen as the favorite among the three due to his years of experience within the group, according to the report.
VW, the world’s biggest carmaker by sales, has admitted to US regulators that it manipulated emissions data on millions of diesel powered cars.
Winterkorn said he was shocked that misconduct on such a massive scale had been possible at the company.
The carmaker was under huge pressure to take decisive action, with its shares down more than 30 percent in value since the crisis broke.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had urged VW to move “as quickly as possible” to restore confidence in a company held up for generations as a paragon of German engineering prowess.
The US Environmental Protection Agency said last Friday that VW could face penalties of up to US$18 billion.
Since then the crisis has snowballed, with the US Justice Department reported to have launched a criminal inquiry.
Senior members of Volkswagen’s board said in a statement they expect more heads to roll as an internal probe seeks to identify who was responsible for the wrongdoing.
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