Just two days after arresting Volkswagen regulatory compliance chief Oliver Schmidt in Florida on charges related to the TDI scandal, and hours after a proposed $4.3 billion plea deal was announced between the company and the US government, The Associated Press reports that six more employees of VW will be indicted.
The AP characterizes the employees as being "high-level", but other than that information we're not certain of where the employees are located, what their roles are, or if the indictments are related to Schmidt's arrest.
UPDATE: We have the statement from the Department of Justice pertaining to the criminal case against the six aforementioned VW employees to be indicted, and it includes their names, roles, and the nature of the charges against them. If you'd like to read the DOJ statement in its entirety, you can do so right here at the DOJ site. But to summarize, the names of the employees charged and their roles are as follows (information below is quoted from the DOJ statement):
Heinz-Jakob Neusser: from July 2013 until September 2015, Neusser worked for VW as head of Development for VW Brand and was also on the management board for VW Brand. From October 2011 until July 2013, Neusser served as the head of Engine Development for VW.
Jens Hadler: from May 2007 until March 2011, Hadler worked for VW as head of Engine Development for VW.
Richard Dorenkamp: from 2003 until December 2013, Dorenkamp worked for VW as the head of VW's Engine Development After-Treatment Department in Wolfsburg, Germany. From 2006 until 2013, Dorenkamp led a team of engineers that developed the first diesel engine that was designed to meet the new, tougher emissions standards in the United States.
Bernd Gottweis: from 2007 until October 2014, Gottweis worked for VW as a supervisor with responsibility for Quality Management and Product Safety.
Oliver Schmidt: from 2012 through February 2015, Schmidt was the General Manager in charge of the Environment and Engineering Office, located in Auburn Hills, Michigan. From February 2015 through September 2015, Schmidt returned to VW headquarters to work directly for Neusser, including on emissions issues.
Jürgen Peter: Peter worked in the VW Quality Management and Product Safety Group from 1990 until the present. From March 2015 until July 2015, Peter was one of the VW liaisons between the regulatory agencies and VW.
All of these employees are German citizens, and all are charged in what the DOJ terms a 10-year conspiracy to defraud the US Government, American Volkswagen customers, and to violate the Clean Air Act. Additionally, four of the employees will be charged with additional Clean Air Act violations, and four will be charged with wire fraud. The indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Michigan, and the case will be held in a US District Court in Michigan.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch also made it clear in a statement that the US DOJ will continue to pursue individuals responsible for this conspiracy with criminal charges, so there could be further indictments coming, although the statement does not imply that any are imminent.
The DOJ's charging documents and other supplementary materials shed some interesting light on the timeline of the TDI scandal itself, in terms of how it unfolded within the company. According to the DOJ, Dorenkamp and Hadler were responsible for designing and implementing the infamous defeat device, which could determine when the diesel engine was being emissions tested, sometime in 2006. Both men green lighted the defeat device, which made its way into model year 2009 Volkswagen vehicles, since there was no other way to design a marketable but compliant engine for the US. In addition to selling the non-compliant vehicles, the DOJ alleges that the VW employees also lied to the EPA, CARB, VW customers, and the public, and falsely marketed the vehicles as being environmentally-friendly.
In 2012, the DOJ report alleges, VW analyzed some hardware failures in various TDI models and realized that the defeat device could be responsible. At this point, several employees made another positive decision to conceal the defeat device in various situations, and improved its efficacy by altering how it worked. This included detecting steering wheel inputs to help the defeat device recognize when it was actually being tested. VW dealers installed the new defeat device through a software update on existing vehicles. A quick review of Autoblog articles from the time doesn't reveal a report on a recall from this time that coincides with this software change, but the DOJ does assert that it happened. According to the DOJ, the VW employees involved in the conspiracy misrepresented the software update as a fix to improve TDI emissions and durability, when in fact the intent was to improve the defeat device.
And in 2014, when the West Virginia University's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions revealed the existence of the emissions discrepancies in TDI vehicles, the DOJ asserts that the conspirators continued to hide the defeat device and misrepresent the reason for the discrepancies for more than 18 months.
It should be clearly stated that the DOJ is making allegations which need to be proven in court. It's also assumed that each of these VW employees reside in Germany, and it's not clear how or if they could be extradited to the US to face charges. Schmidt was only arrested after visiting the US on his own accord; he was not extradited.
We'll have more on this story as it develops.