The top executive in the U.S. for Volkswagen AG will step down close to six months after the automaker based in Germany admitted to having software installed in its engines that allowed over 580,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. emit an excess amount of emissions.
The company announced late Wednesday that Michael Horn, who has been the CEO and president of Volkswagen in the U.S. since 2014, would leave by a mutual accord to pursue opportunities elsewhere effective immediately.
Horn, who is 54, was not available for comment. A lawyer that represents Horn did not return messages left at his office seeking a comment.
The automaker in Germany said Hinrich J. Woebcken, a former executive with BMW who was in charge of global purchasing amongst other jobs would on an interim basis fill Horn’s jobs as well.
This past January, Woebcken was named by VW as the head of its North American region of VW that would start April 1.
Horn sent his employees an email thanking all of them for their support and for coming together as a unit during this recent crisis.
The departure of Horn comes during a time when VW is continuing to negotiate with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the state of California on the possible fixes and or buybacks for the vehicles in question that emit as much as 40 times the legal allowable pollution from their diesel engines.
VW is facing a deadline of March 24 to tell the federal judge if it now has a fix that is acceptable.
A top official in California told that state’s lawmakers this week that VW might only have a partial fix and might have to pay to mitigate the harm caused by the vehicles being allowed to remain operating.
Volkswagen is also facing an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation. The DOJ sued the automaker during January seeking as much as $46 billion for the violation of environmental regulations.
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