Publish date:
Updated on

Last day at VW for Jose Ignacio Lopez

On November 29, 1996, top Volkswagen official Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua resigns from his job amidst accusations of racketeering and industrial espionage.

Lopez had risen through the ranks as a purchasing executive at GM, where he had pioneered what The New York Times called “the most aggressive system in the world for buying auto components cheaply.” (This system, which reduced GM’s costs and increased its profits, was known as the “Lopez effect” within the industry.) In 1993, Lopez—supposedly miffed because GM was not moving fast enough to build a factory, called “Plant X,” that used the Lopez purchasing system—abandoned GM for Volkswagen. He brought with him more than 2 million pages of top-secret GM documents, business plans, pictures of new automobile designs and part and factory blueprints—information that, GM said, VW used to cut $450 million in expenses, eliminating GM’s competitive advantage in the European market. (For his part, Lopez denied any wrongdoing. “You have the right to take your ideas away with you,” he insisted, though in fact intellectual-property law dictates otherwise.) In mid-November 1996, VW opened a new factory in Resende, Brazil that seemed to be based on the purloined plans for Plant X.

For three years after Lopez left GM, the American auto giant had been trying to get VW to oust Lopez and to apologize for his theft, with no success. Lawsuits accused Lopez and VW of espionage, racketeering and copyright infringement. Finally, in hopes that its rival would settle its suits out of court, VW announced that Lopez would resign. However, his resignation did not stop the criminal investigations against him. Within weeks, prosecutors had filed criminal charges in German and American courts.

In January 1997, VW agreed to pay GM $100 million, and to buy $1 billion worth of auto parts from the American company between 1997 and 2004. While they admitted no wrongdoing, VW executives also issued a statement that conceded what they called “the possibility that illegal activities” might have taken place.

In 1998, a German court fined Lopez $280,000 and dropped all criminal charges against him. In 2001, the Spanish high court refused to extradite him to the U.S. for trial.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Chinese overwhelm Allies in North Korea

Three weeks after U.S. General Douglas MacArthur first reported Chinese communist troops in action in North Korea, U.S.-led U.N. troops begin a desperate retreat out of North Korea under heavy fire from the Chinese. Near the end of World War II, the “Big Three” Allied powers–the more

Johnson establishes Warren Commission

One week after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes a special commission, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. After 10 months of gathering more

Byrd flies over South Pole

American explorer Richard Byrd and three companions make the first flight over the South Pole, flying from their base on the Ross Ice Shelf to the pole and back in 18 hours and 41 minutes. Richard Evelyn Byrd learned how to fly in the U.S. Navy and served as a pilot in World War more

U.N. votes for partition of Palestine

Despite strong Arab opposition, the United Nations votes for the partition of Palestine and the creation of an independent Jewish state. The modern conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine dates back to the 1910s, when both groups laid claim to the British-controlled more

McNamara resigns as Secretary of Defense

Robert S. McNamara announces that he will resign as Secretary of Defense and will become president of the World Bank. Formerly the president of Ford Motor Company, McNamara had served as Secretary of Defense under two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, from 1961 more

Communists vow to smash Phoenix program

The Viet Cong High Command orders an all-out attempt to smash the Phoenix program. Hanoi Radio broadcasted a National Liberation Front directive calling for a new offensive to “utterly destroy” Allied forces. The broadcast added that the new operation was particularly concerned more

Americal Division stands down and departs

The U.S. 23rd Division (Americal) ceases combat operations and begins its withdrawal from South Vietnam. The division had been activated in Vietnam on September 25, 1967, after which it assumed control of the 11th, 198th, and 199th Infantry Brigades (and associated support more

Sue Miller is born

Contemporary novelist Sue Miller is born this day in Boston. Miller graduated from Radcliffe College in 1964 and briefly worked as a high school teacher. She later worked as a model, a cocktail waitress, and administered psychological tests to rats in a university lab. She took more

Eisenhower goes to Korea

Making good on his most dramatic presidential campaign promise, newly elected Dwight D. Eisenhower goes to Korea to see whether he can find the key to ending the bitter and frustrating Korean War.During the presidential campaign of 1952, Republican candidate Eisenhower was more

Sand Creek massacre

On this day in 1864, peaceful Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians are massacred by a band of Colonel John Chivington’s Colorado volunteers at Sand Creek, Colorado. The causes of the Sand Creek massacre were rooted in the long conflict for control of the Great Plains of eastern more