2017-01-26 09:09:09
VW Executive, Hired to Help Reform Carmaker’s Culture, Is to Leave Job

Volkswagen’s head of compliance — an outsider hired to help revamp the German carmaker after its diesel deception — is to leave her job barely a year after joining the company.

The unexpected departure of the executive, Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, raises questions about the automaker’s willingness to change ingrained practices, a culture that contributed to the decision to install software designed to cheat emissions tests in more than 11 million cars.

Just a few weeks ago, the company pleaded guilty in the United States to criminal charges tied to the deception. Seven Volkswagen executives have already been charged in relation to the scandal, and the automaker has agreed to pay $20 billion to resolve civil and criminal charges related to it.

Ms. Hohmann-Dennhardt, a former executive at the rival carmaker Daimler who took the job in January 2016, was the first woman to join Volkswagen’s board. She was responsible for integrity and legal affairs, and will be replaced by Hiltrud Werner, Volkswagen’s chief auditor.

Volkswagen said Ms. Hohmann-Dennhardt had toughened the company’s compliance rules and changed its culture. But it noted in a statement that she was leaving “due to differences in their understanding of responsibilities and future operating structures within the function she leads.”

Questions of culture and accountability have dogged Volkswagen since the revelation in September 2015 that it had been hiding excess pollutants during testing by regulators.

Though Volkswagen first claimed that the moves to evade the rules had been the work of a small handful of engineers, the litany of civil and criminal cases against the company in the United States and around the world have offered a different narrative.

The American authorities have described an orchestrated conspiracy involving engine developers, software experts, compliance managers and others. So far, six Volkswagen employees have been charged in the case; a seventh has pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud regulators and car owners.