As the new head of Volkswagen, Matthias Mueller will be overseeing the largest automaker in the world, a sprawling empire of brands and manufacturing facilities stretching from China to North America. But that empire is also facing the biggest crisis in its 78-year history, one that some observers have said could destroy it.
The veteran Volkswagen executive, who until Friday morning was in charge of its Porsche brand, will now run the entire company, replacing Martin Winterkorn as CEO in wake of the diesel emissions scandal.
VW officials this week acknowledged the company used special software code, dubbed a "defeat device," to get its diesel models to recognize when they were undergoing emissions tests. Otherwise, the engine control system would be relaxed, allowing the vehicles to produce up to 40 times the legal limit in the U.S. of noxious emissions.
The carmaker has ordered a stop-sale for those vehicles in the U.S. while it works up a solution. It's unclear if software updates alone can fix things. If not, VW might have to compensate owners for reduced performance and mileage, perhaps even buy back some vehicles.