A top Volkswagen engineer who was interviewed by US authorities about the diesel emissions-rigging scandal has no idea why the carmaker fired him, his attorney told a German judge.
The man, who can only be identified as Joern K because of German press laws, headed the company’s diesel-engine development, and VW still needs to explain the reasons for the dismissal, his attorney, Ulrich Weber, said on Monday. The manager didn’t work on the EA 189 engine model, which is at the centre of the scandal. Instead, he was working on the model that followed, Weber said.
“They fired the wrong guy, it’s as simple as that," the lawyer said at a hearing in Braunschweig, the city where all labour court disputes involving VW’s headquarters in nearby Wolfsburg are heard. “Why they want to get rid of him remains opaque.”
Joern K, 52, was among a group of managers fired in August, a month after the company was given access to German prosecutors’ files three years after the carmaker was found to have rigged vehicle software to cheat on emissions tests.
Among the employees who got notice was also Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW’s former head of engine development who has been charged in the US over his role in the scandal. Neusser and others are also suing in the labour court to win their jobs back.
Weber said nothing in the prosecutors’ files incriminates his client, and that despite his questioning by the US Justice Department, no charges were filed in the US and he expects his client won’t be charged in Germany.
VW expects managers to flag any wrongdoing of others when they become aware as part of its stringent compliance rules, Volker Fuchs, an in-house counsel for the carmaker told the court. The company will specify the reasons that prompted Joern K’s dismissal in a filing in the coming weeks. Labour representatives at VW have backed the dismissal.
The court scheduled a new hearing for March 11. VW has until the beginning of December to tell the court why it fired the engineer.
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