A top Volkswagen executive outlined the company's scheme to cheat on US emissions tests in 2006, according to American and German news outlets, raising new questions about who signed off on the plan.
The German automaker has admitted to using computer software to dodge pollution controls in millions of diesel-powered cars, including nearly 600,000 sold in the United States. In December, VW chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told reporters that the scheme originated in 2005 with "a very limited group" who decided to trick tailpipe tests after being unable to hit US standards without breaking their budget.
But German broadcasters, the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and The New York Times now report that a top Volkswagen technology executive prepared a PowerPoint presentation that laid out the cheating in 2006. The document explained how software would recognize when a car was being tested in a laboratory and activate emissions controls that were switched off when a car was on the road.
"What is now clear is that the current crisis at Volkswagen traces back to the PowerPoint presentation a decade ago," the Times concluded. And VW bosses "repeatedly rejected proposals to improve the emissions equipment," the Times reported, citing two Volkswagen employees who were in the meetings.
Volkswagen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company and the US Department of Justice disclosed last week that they had reached an agreement-in-principle to settle the resulting legal issues, which left VW facing billions of dollars in penalties.
Vehicles operating with the defeat devices put out up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides allowable under US regulations, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Tests by an independent research organization, the International Council for Clean Transportation, revealed the software in 2014.
The resulting scandal prompted the resignation of CEO Martin Winterkorn. In December, Poetsch announced the company had suspended nine managers suspected of being involved with the scheme and promised VW would beef up its internal oversight.
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