One "key conspirator" down…
Judge Sean Cox has no love lost for those responsible for the Dieselgate scandal. After he sentenced a former Volkswagen engineer to 40-months in prison and a US$200,000 fine (or about $265,000), he then took VW US’ former emissions boss to task, despite pleading he was “misused.”
Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government and violating the Clean Air Act some months ago, when investigations proved that he had been critical in the implementation of a defeat device that got VW’s cars to emit far less CO2 than they normally do by detecting when they’re undergoing testing.
In a letter published by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Schmidt said that he felt misused by Volkswagen, and that instructions from upper management on how to handle the scandal led directly to his fate.
“I must say that I feel misused by my own company in the diesel scandal or ‘Dieselgate.’ I should have never agreed to meet with Dr. Ayala [an executive for the California Air Resources Board] on that day. Or better yet, I should have gone to that meeting and ignored the instructions given to me, and told Dr. Ayala that there is a defeat device in the VW diesel engines and that VW had been cheating for almost a decade. I did not do that, and that is why I find myself here today.” — Oliver Schmidt, Former Volkswagen US Emissions Head
Judge Cox was not swayed by this letter, as investigations by Volkswagen themselves had showed that Schmidt had deleted documents and attempted to cover his tracks and advance his career.
“You knowingly misled and lied to government officials. You actively participated in the destruction of evidence. You saw this massive coverup as an opportunity to advance your career at VW.” — Judge Sean Cox, District Court Judge
Schmidt was sentenced to seven years in prison, and is liable for a US$400,000 fine (or about $530,000).
Schmidt is now one of seven Volkswagen executives who have been charged for their respective roles in the Dieselgate scandal, which emerged when the EPA discovered that special ‘defeat device’ software was present in some 11-million diesel-powered Volkswagens in the US. The defeat devices acted to allow VW’s to pass emissions regulations testing by throttling back performance and cutting their emissions as a result.
Dieselgate is speculated to have already cost VW some US$30-billion (or just under $40-billion) in settlements and buy-backs, and its effects have shaped the ‘new Volkswagen’ we have today that’s entirely committed to an electrified future.