Martin Winterkorn has today resigned as chief executive of the Volkswagen Group, following the emissions scandal that has rocked both the company and the motor industry.
Yesterday, the company admitted to installing software to fool emissions testing in 11 million cars and set aside €6.5billion to cover the costs of recalling them.
It faces huge fines, and billions were wiped from its share price.
Winterkorn, who has long been a champion of VW's and Audi's involvement in motorsport via its World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship and DTM programmes, announced he was leaving his position in a statement.
“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group," he said.
“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.
“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.
"I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life.
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
Motorsport future unclear
Whether the fallout from the scandal might affect its racing and rallying programmes – or the long-rumoured entry into Formula 1 as an engine manufacturer – is unclear at this stage as the company comes to terms with the huge scale of the impropriety.
The news of Winterkorn’s resignation follows a meeting of the supervisory board today, which came a day after the scandal broke.
His reputation was built on his engineering abilities, but has denied any knowledge about the rogue software.