Volkswagen Group's embattled former chief executive, who resigned Wednesday amid a growing scandal that the car company allegedly knowingly rigged its vehicles to pass strict diesel emissions tests under false pretenses, still has a chance of receiving an eight-figure pension, despite accepting responsibility for what he called "irregularities" that were found, according to multiple reports. Martin Winterkorn is owed a pension worth just about $32 million, which is nearly twice what he was compensated annually, Fortune reported.
Specifically, Volkswagen admitted this week that 11 million cars it manufactured had doctored software installed that would indicate lower levels of pollutants as a means to make them appear more environmentally friendly than they actually were, allowing them to pass U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests that they would have otherwise failed. Prior to the revelation, Winterkorn was earning about $18.5 million per year and ranked as the second-highest-paid CEO in Europe.
“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,” Winterkorn said in a statement announcing his resignation. “I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.”
The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 482,000 Volkswagens with diesel engines in the U.S. were emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of pollutants, which is the same amount as nearly 19 million cars, Bloomberg reported.
The company was scrambling to remove any reference of its claims of having cars with clean diesel, according to the Hill, which highlighted one now-deleted tweet posted five months ago that read: “Diesel cars are really smoky and sluggish? That’s the past. The 2015 Golf TDI is, however, a lot of fun.”
In response to the automotive and environmental scandal, Volkswagen owners around the world reacted with anger on social media, with one person tweeting that she felt "Deceived & disrespected!"