Volkswagen is trying to show it means business when it says it will make things right and resolve the diesel emissions scandal plaguing the automaker. It just cut a deal with Daimler AG to hire its integrity officer to take on the same role at VW.
Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt will join Volkswagen on its Board for Integrity and Legal Affairs to help the automaker clean up its severely tarnished image after it admitted it had cheated emissions tests on more than 11 million cars worldwide.
“We are delighted that Dr. Hohmann-Dennhardt has agreed to take on this responsible task and that we can build on her outstanding competence and experience,” Volkswagen chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said in a statement. “At the same time we would like to thank Daimler AG for agreeing to our request to the early termination of Dr. Hohmann-Dennhardt’s contract.”
The move is stunning as the two automakers have typically played hardball when one or the other poached an executive in recent years. In fact, Daimler enforced its non-compete clause with Andreas Renschler after he signed on to head up VW’s commercial vehicle unit to its maximum, so this move comes as a bit of a surprise.
Ultimately, the Daimler board agreed to take one for the German automaker team by agreeing to let her opt out early, just as VW ordered the recall of 8.5 million vehicles in Europe.
(Germany orders first recall of VW diesels. For more, Click Here.)
“In the interests of the Good Corporate Governance of the German automotive industry, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Daimler AG has agreed to this request after consultation with the Presidential Committee of the Supervisory Board, after Compliance is anchored firmly at Daimler and its corporate culture.
Hohmann-Dennhardt, who will join VW in January, signed onto Daimler’s board in 2011 after sitting on the First Constitutional Court of Germany since 1999. While her expertise in Europe seems obvious, how much of an impact she’ll have in the U.S. is still to be determined.
Currently Volkswagen is at the beginning of or about to become involved in numerous investigations, including a U.S. Justice Department criminal probe, as well as hundreds of lawsuits. The company has also hired law firm Jones Day to conduct an independent investigation of its actions.
(VW planning a complete remake of its controversial diesel engines. Click Here for the story.)
The EPA has yet to order a formal recall – though one is expected – in part because it has been working with VW to come up with an appropriate fix. The U.S. has some of the world’s most stringent diesel emissions standards. Complicating matters, it now appears the maker’s 2016 diesels may be using a different type of software code to evade emissions mandates.
Additionally, the EPA has begun examining the software used on 2016 versions of some VW diesels, which, the company revealed, have adopted different software code also aimed at fooling emissions tests.
“We have a long list of questions for VW about this,” Janet McCabe, acting assistant EPA administrator for air quality, said this week. “We’re getting some answers from them, but we do not have all the answers yet.”
(Sudden departure of Vahland means further turmoil at VW. Click Here for more.)
Last week, Volkswagen AG CEO Matthias Mueller said he expected to begin the repair of the 11 million diesel vehicles in January, with a goal of completing the “retrofit” by the end of 2016. Along with changing the software code on VW’s EA 189 engine, some versions, especially a smaller 1.6-liter diesel, could require revisions to the engine itself, not just an update to the engine controller’s code.