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Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen CEO, resigns amid emissions scandal

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down, ahead of a board meeting later this week that would have decided his future.

Company earlier set aside almost $10B Cdn to update the vehicles

'I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,' says Martin Winterkorn 3:01

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down, ahead of a board meeting later this week that would have decided his future.

"Volkswagen needs a fresh start," Winterkorn said in a statement Wednesday issued from the Wolfsburg head office of the German automaker. "I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation."

No replacement for the post of chief executive officer was announced.

The move comes just a day after he pronounced his determination to fix the problems plaguing the automaker. In a video statement on Tuesday, Winterkorn said he was "endlessly sorry" for the emissions scandal but promised to turn the company around.

Over the weekend, it emerged that Volkswagen had installed software on 11 million vehicles worldwide that was designed to ace emissions tests but perform far differently. Even while resigning, Winterkorn stressed he had nothing to do with the bogus emissions claims. "I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part," he said.

The company has set aside almost $10 billion Cdn to update the vehicles, but that figure doesn't include any fines or legal costs. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says it could fine the company as much as $18 billion US, and other countries have launched probes into the issue. More than two dozen class-action lawsuits have already been launched.

The company's board was set to meet to discuss Winterkorn's future. It was scheduled to happen even before the scandal broke, as Winterkorn's contract as CEO was serendipitously set to expire on Friday.

Before the scandal, his extension as top executive of the carmaker he has led since 2007 was seen as nothing more than a formal rubber stamping.

Winterkorn took in more than €15 million ($22 million Cdn) last year, making him the highest-paid CEO in Germany.

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