Capital: € 100 million
Age: 72
Born: May 24, 1947
Country of origin: Germany
Source of wealth: Entrepreneurs
Last updated: 2024

Short introduction

The former CEO of Volkswagen AG is a public person in the Federal Republic. First at Bosch and then at Audi, he moved to VW in 1993, where he was on the board from 2000 and became chairman of the board in 2006. Due to the involvement in the VW exhaust scandal, after so many successful years, he was finally criticized so severely that he resigned in 2015. There are currently several lawsuits against him in Germany and the United States for fraud and other offenses, the outcome of which is currently open.

Early life

Little is known about his childhood and youth. From 1966 Martin Winterkorn, who was born in Leonberg, studied metallurgy and metal physics in Stuttgart. From 1973, Winterkorn worked as a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, which he ended with a doctorate. From then on he started working in the free industry.


First he worked as a researcher at Robert Bosch GmbH, an automotive supplier. He did this so successfully that he already joined the automobile manufacturer Audi in 1981 as assistant to the board for quality assurance. This was followed by further career jumps, such as the appointment as division manager and, from 1990, head of all Audi quality assurance.

Here, too, he developed an excellent reputation for his work and performance, even if criticism of his authoritarian dealings with employees was sometimes expressed at that time. He probably kept this trait until the end of his professional career, not without being very successful with it.

So he finally switched to Volkswagen in 1993. Here, too, he was initially active in the management of quality assurance. Just one year later, he became general representative of VW AG, and from 2000 he rose to the board. Here he was initially a member of the board for “Research and Development”.

In 2006 Martin Winterkorn reached the peak of his career. After the departure of Bernd Pischetsrieder, he became his successor as head of the entire group and thus CEO.

His salary was over 17 million euros in 2011, a record for a CEO of a DAX company. He also earned pension rights of EUR 1.33 million a year. The great success VW celebrated under his direction initially seemed to justify these sums, even if there was some criticism of these amounts in German society.

During this time he was also an honorary professor at several universities, such as the Technical University of Budapest and the TU Dresden.

However, his reputation has been completely ruined since the emissions scandal, in which Martin Winterkorn bears nominal responsibility, became known. US authorities had uncovered tampering with VW diesel emissions. Martin Winterkorn resigned as CEO of VW in 2015, as well as at Porsche Holding and from the Supervisory Board at Audi.

As of 2024, several lawsuits have been opened for fraud and similar crimes against him. In addition to extremely severe fines, he could also face imprisonment.

Career highlights

His entire time as a board member of VW can be considered a great success – until the emissions scandal cost him his good reputation, his job and maybe even his freedom. Until then, he had always set Volkswagen to new records. Highest sales figures, tens of thousands of new jobs and record sales and profits. In the wake of the scandal, these achievements fade more than just a little, and yet they are part of Martin Winterkorn’s largely successful life and work.

His long successful career as a manager was reflected in numerous awards. Perhaps the most important of these was that of Manager Manager of the Year in 2012. Nominally more important may be the two honorary doctorates that he received from the Chemnitz University of Technology and the Technical University of Munich. He is also an honorary professor at Tongji University in Shanghai.

Famous quotes

“Board members earn a lot and have a lot of responsibility. Errors quickly have very serious consequences. Accordingly, consequent action must also be taken when the results are inadequate. ”

“I expect my top managers to feel safe about cars: euphoria for things that are really good, intolerance against weaknesses.”

“The employees who still know me from my time as a quality man at Audi or VW know that I’m not interested in hierarchies, but only in the hard facts. Especially when it comes to hot topics when a problem arises somewhere. ”

“Volkswagen should be at the top in every respect, including when it comes to responsible corporate management. I am careful with the word ‘role model’ – but our industry and therefore Volkswagen can be called a pioneer: Nobody can fool us when it comes to working conditions and responsible use of the resources of our planet. ”

Amazing facts

During his time at VW, he had a pond built for kois in his estate. The erection of a heating system for this pond alone cost 60,000 euros, which of course VW took over.

Martin Winterkorn is the father of two sons with two different women.

Shortly before the emissions scandal became known, he and his wife founded a company whose sole managing director is his wife. Martin Winterkorn transferred large parts of his assets there.


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