The chief of VW, Martin Winterkorn, was forced out of his position following the revelation that VW had rigged about 11 million of its diesel vehicles to appear to pass emissions tests when, in fact, they were emitting 40 times the allowable amount of pollutants. Not long thereafter, German prosecutors announced Winterkorn was the subject of a criminal investigation. Those same prosecutorial authorities have now walked back those statements and are saying that a full investigation will take months and that Winterkorn is not the target.
Under German law, only an individual, not a company, can be held responsible for fraud. That crime carries a possible jail sentence of 6 months to 10 years. However, it is possible for a settlement to be reached that avoids jail time by only paying a fine.
VW has appointed a new CEO, Matthias Muller, who is considered to be a company insider.
It is hard to imagine a bigger scandal. Nevertheless, the scandal has embarrassed not only VW, but the whole country. The appointment of an insider indicates a circling of the wagons rather than a housecleaning and prosecution.
It will be interesting to see what authorities in the U.S. do in regard to prosecution.