BERLIN (Reuters) -- Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn apologized again for the carmaker's cheating of diesel emission rules in the U.S. and pledged full cooperation with authorities involved.
“At this point, I don’t have the answers to all the questions,” Winterkorn said in a video statement posted on Tuesday. “But we’re in the process of ruthlessly investigating the issue, and to that end everything will be put on the table as fast, thoroughly and transparently as possible.”
Meanwhile, Volkswagen denied a report that Winterkorn will be replaced by Matthias Mueller, the head of the automaker's Porsche sports car business.
A VW spokesman described the report as "ridiculous." A Porsche spokesman said Mueller was at a Volkswagen management board meeting at its headquarters in Wolfsburg on Tuesday.
Winterkorn did not mention his future in his video message.
The Tagesspiegel newspaper said in a report that Mueller, 59, will replace Winterkorn after the automaker admitted to cheating U.S. vehicles emissions tests. Winterkorn, 68, no longer has the board's trust, the paper said, citing unidentified sources.
A key Winterkorn ally withheld public support for the under-fire chief executive on Tuesday. "I don't want to preempt the upcoming intense deliberations and will not comment on details or any consequences," Stephan Weil, head of the German state of Lower Saxony, told reporters in Hanover when asked about Winterkorn's future.
Weil is a VW supervisory board member for Lower Saxony, VW's second-largest shareholder with a 20 percent stake. Earlier this year Weil helped Winterkorn to defeat a challenge to his leadership by long-time chairman Ferdinand Piech.
VW said that 11 million of its cars could be affected worldwide by the emissions irregularities. Volkswagen sold 10.1 million cars in 2014.
The steering committee of VW Group's supervisory board is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis. The group wants a "comprehensive and fast" explanation from Winterkorn of the cheating on emissions tests, Handelsblatt reported, citing Bernd Osterloh, a labor representative on the committee. The six-member inner circle is down to five members following the departure in April of Piech and prior to the formal election of his designated successor, Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Poetsch.
The full board is due to meet on Friday - a date scheduled before the scandal erupted last week - to extend Winterkorn's contract until end-2018.
Pressure to quit
Winterkorn is under increasing pressure over the falsification of emissions tests. He oversees group r&d operations and ran the core Volkswagen brand between 2007 and 2015, including the period when some of its cars were found violating U.S. clean air rules.
Heads are certain to roll at Volkswagen once it becomes clear who at VW was responsible for the falsification of emissions tests, Olaf Lies, a German politician and VW supervisory board member, said. "I am sure that there will be personnel consequences in the end, there is no question about it," Lies told German radio station Deutschlandfunk.
Some analysts suggest Winterkorn, who recently saw off a challenge to his leadership with the ousting of long-time chairman Ferdinand Piech, will have to go. "Winterkorn either knew of proceedings in the U.S. or it was not reported to him," Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said. "In the first instance, he must step down immediately. In the second, one needs to ask why such a far-reaching violation was not reported to the top and then things will get tough too."
Stock down 20%
VW shares tumbled as much as 23 percent to 101.35 euros on Tuesday and were down 20 percent as of 5:10 p.m. in Frankfurt. That followed a 19 percent dive on Monday.
VW said it would set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in its third-quarter accounts to help cover the costs of the scandal. The automaker also warned that sum could rise, adding diesel cars with so-called Type EA 189 engines built into about 11 million VW models worldwide had shown a "noticeable deviation" in emission levels between testing and road use.
Porsche SE, the holding company that owns 51 percent of Volkswagen’s voting shares, said VW’s provision will also have an effect on its profit this year.
VW could face penalties of up to $18 billion in the United States, as well as class-action lawsuits from buyers and damage to its reputation, with U.S. regulators alleging it misled them for more than a year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for full transparency in clearing up the emissions tests scandal. "Given the difficult situation, this is about showing complete transparency, clearing up the entire case," Merkel told journalists Tuesday in Berlin. "The Transport Minister is in close contact with the company, Volkswagen. And I hope that the facts will be put on the table as quickly as possible," she said.
Automotive News Europe and Bloomberg contributed to this report