Rupert Stadler, the Chief Executive of Volkswagen’s luxury car division Audi is a survivor. After it emerged that Audi was involved in the development of illegal emissions software under his watch, he still managed to keep his job with other top executives in the company. Even after pressure from an outside monitor calling out Volkswagen for failing to hold top executives accountable, Rupert Stadler stayed put.
But there was more to it. Just the other week, Stadler’s home was raided by prosecutors in Munich who are investigating the scandal. Stadler was later identified as a suspect in the investigation. Even with that info, the Volkswagen board made it clear that it hadn’t even discussed the matter for the executive’s dismissal. Despite this seemingly good fortune, the seven lives of Mr. Rupert Stadler are about to run out.
German authorities on Monday arrested the Audi CEO. Stadler will be held by the police indefinitely as he awaits trial. Many analysts have considered the arrest a big embarrassment for Volkswagen and perhaps something that could push the German automaker to take more decisive action against all the people involved. The diesel scandal at Volkswagen was discovered in 2015. The company is accused of using software to artificially lower the emission levels of its cars during testing.
The arrest of Stadler is the clearest indication that authorities in Germany are widening their investigation further into the diesel scandal. In fact, more arrests could follow very soon. So far, much of the investigation into this matter had been led by authorities in the United States. Volkswagen has already paid tens of billions of dollars in fines in the US. There have also been high-profile arrests of top executives at the company with some already serving jail time.
It’s only recently that German authorities have really stepped up their inquiry in the scandal. Last week, Volkswagen agreed to pay a fine of 1 billion euros for failing to properly supervise the staff that had come up with the illegal software.
The German justice system has often been very kind to top business executives like Rupert Stadler. It’s very rare for a judge to jail such a high-profile figure of the car industry. But it seems the Rupert Stadler case was different. It’s very likely that the judge felt the Audi CEO could flee to avoid trial or interfere with the investigation.
Prosecutors in Germany have already arrested over 70 people. The Volkswagen supervisory board, a team that provides oversight for top management at the company, met on Monday to find a temporary replacement for Stadler. However, Volkswagen has been very easy on the executives implicated in this scandal. The German automaker has been reluctant to fire or castigate any member of its top management mentioned in the diesel scandal. It’s not clear whether this will change but with the arrest of Stadler, the company may be forced to be decisive in the way it approaches this matter moving forward.