The Volkswagen diesel crisis is not far from entering its third year. It received an unexpected sequel this week as prosecutors in Hamburg, Germany, arrested Porche’s powertrain chief, Joerg Kerner. The executive is reportedly being held in custody to prevent possible flight, the German paper Bild am Sonntag reported. Kerner has been with VW Group sister brand Audi since 2004 and was involved in developing transmission and engine electronics. Kerner was reportedly close to Wolfgang Hatz. A former top engineer at VW who was one of the executives arrested in September 2017 after being suspended in late 2015.
The investigation had shifted to Porsche, part of the greater Volkswagen empire, relatively recently after several searches at Audi facilities a year ago. The latest major development in German prosecutors’ investigation into Porsche’s role in the diesel crisis came in July 2017. Stuttgart prosecutors’ office stated that Porsche employees, including those working in the U.S., were under investigation. Officially, the Porsche probe focused on possible fraud and false advertising related to diesel engines in Germany and in the U.S. But the actual extent of the prosecutors’ investigation is not known.
Porsche’s role in the crisis received little attention until 2018
Porsche’s role in the crisis received little attention until 2018, when prosecutors searched 10 locations in Bader-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria. Also indicated that they were investigating three high-level suspects including one current and one former executive, in addition to a current management board member.
The expansion of the diesel crisis investigation by the German police and prosecutors to include Porsche occurred relatively late in the overall timeline of the crisis. Well, after VW and Audi had settled civil and criminal suits with the U.S. Department of Justice and groups of plaintiffs, as well as launching a historic buyback of VW models.
Kerner’s arrest comes 10 months after the arrest of Giovanni Pamio, Audi’s V6 engine development chief for the U.S. market. Pamio was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violation of the Clean Air Act.