Ferdinand Piech, chairman and CEO of Volkswagen Group, at 2000 Paris Motor ShowEnlarge Photo
Statements from the boards of directors of automakers are generally dry, dispassionate, and formal.
So the language of a terse item issued yesterday by the board of Volkswagen Group was remarkable in its directness.
Not to mention its inferences about the company's former CEO Ferdinand Piech, who remains a powerful and major shareholder.
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The statement summary read, "The Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG emphatically repudiates the assertions made by Ferdinand Piëch as reported recently in the media."
The main body of the English-language version posted on the group's corporate website said:
A similar account, which alongside the former CEO was directed above all against a number of current and former members of the Executive Committee of the Supervisory Board, was already given by Ferdinand Piëch in spring 2016 in the context of the internal, independent investigations.
Consumer Reports tests 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel in 'cheat mode,' October 2015 [video frame]
Consumer Reports tests 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel in 'cheat mode,' October 2015 [video frame]Enlarge Photo
This account was subsequently examined in close detail by law firm Jones Day. No evidence was forthcoming indicating the accuracy of these allegations, which were classified as implausible overall.
In addition, all affected members of the Executive Committee of the Supervisory Board, acting independently of each other, have unequivocally and emphatically rejected all assertions made by Ferdinand Piëch as untrue.
The Board of Management will carefully weigh the possibility of measures and claims against Mr. Piëch.
To be clear, that means that VW Group is considering taking legal action against the scion of the family that founded the company, who ran it as chairman and CEO from 1993 until he was deposed in April 2015.
The impetus for this remarkable eruption, as reported by the Associated Press, was the pre-publication release of an article from Bild am Sonntag, the German business newspaper.
That article asserted that Piech had given early warnings to four members of the supervisory board about the use of "defeat device" software in its diesel vehicles.
2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEEnlarge Photo
That software was designed specifically to violate U.S. law by making the cars stay within legal emission limits during EPA tests.
In real-world driving, however, they were found to emit up to 35 times the highest amount of nitrogen oxides permitted under U.S. emission laws.
That scandal ultimately spread to almost 600,000 4-cylinder and V-6 diesel vehicles of multiple models by Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen in the U.S.