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VW Korea chief to be summoned for emissions scandal

[THE INVESTOR] South Korean prosecutors will summon Thomas Kuehl, the CEO of Volkswagen Korea, on Aug. 18 for questioning over his involvement in the automaker’s emissions-rigging scandal.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office on Aug. 16 said it plans to grill Kuehl, who has been in charge of importing and selling Volkswagen vehicles here as head of the Korean unit since Sept. 2013.

The investigators suspect Kuehl took part in selling the seventh-generation Golf 1.4 TSI while aware that it fell below emissions standards. 

Thomas Kuehl, CEO of Volkswagen Korea, at his office in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul in 2014. The Investor /Ahn Hoon
Thomas Kuehl, CEO of Volkswagen Korea, at his office in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul in 2014. The Investor /Ahn Hoon


According to authorities, the embattled model initially failed to meet the emissions levels set by the Korean government to be eligible for export. Upon facing rejection, the carmaker manipulated the engine control unit and passed to obtain approval for sale.

The prosecutors suspect that it was Kuehl and Johannes Thammer, the CEO of Audi Volkswagen Korea, who received the order from German headquarters to replace the software in the Korean units.

Earlier, prosecutors summoned Thammer twice, on Aug. 11 and 12, to question his role in the manipulation.

Thammer, however, denied the allegation during the investigation.

After probing Kuehl, prosecutors will decide whether to seek a warrant for Thammer and former VW Korea chief Park Dong-hoon, who now heads Renault Samsung Motors. Earlier, the court dismissed the prosecutors’ arrest warrant request for Park.

On Aug. 2, the Korean Ministry of Environment banned the sales of 80 vehicle models of Audi, Volkswagen and Bentley and fined Audi Volkswagen Korea 17.8 billion won (US$16.3 million) for manipulating documents with the intention to cheat on the government’s emissions and noise level tests.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)




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