The former chief executive of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, will net a €1m (£740,000) annual pension from a €28.5m pot held with the disgraced carmaker, and could be in line for a €3.2m payoff after quitting on Wednesday.
Winterkorn, who was one of Europe’s highest-paid executives, with a salary of €1.6m boosted to nearly €16m last year with bonuses and loyalty payments, finally fell on his sword as the extent of the emissions test-rigging scandal emerged.
Winterkorn is entitled to 70% of his fixed salary, according to Volkswagen’s annual report, from his staggering €28.5m pot. He may also be entitled to two years’ salary severance pay if “membership of the board of management is terminated for cause through no fault of the board of management member”. Winterkorn stressed when he resigned that he was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part”.
However, Winterkorn has been at the helm while the global corporation faces criminal investigation and huge consumer claims, as well as having almost 30% wiped off its market value as shares slid. He said: “I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen group.”
Winterkorn’s contract was due to be extended this week until the end of 2018. Instead, the carmaker’s 20-member supervisory board will discuss who should replace the 68-year-old, who has led the company since 2007. Porsche chief executive Matthias Müller is the current frontrunner.
Winterkorn was praised effusively by the executive committee of VW’s supervisory board on departure, which suggested they would not seek to withhold any payout. In a statement, they praised his “towering contributions in the past decades and ... willingness to take responsibility in this critical phase for the company. This attitude is illustrious.”
Winterkorn quit after five days of growing pressure on VW, after the US Environmental Protection Agency revealed it had been using a so-called defeat device to cheat emissions tests on diesel cars. The crisis could involve millions of VW and Audi vehicles being recalled around the world, with motorists preparing legal claims for compensation. It has led to calls for a greater clampdown on the wider motor industry’s testing, amid public health and environmental concerns.
This article was written by Gwyn Topham, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th September 2015 13.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010