The boss of French car parts firm Faurecia, Pierre Levi, has resigned following the start of a criminal investigation into alleged bribery.
Mr Levi’s departure comes as German prosecutors claim Faurecia paid bribes to carmakers such as VW and BMW in order to win their business.
Frankfurt-based prosecutor Sibylle Gottwald said Mr Levi was aware of the bribes but denied direct involvement.
Faurecia said Mr Levi’s departure was in the best interests of the company.
“Given the consequences of the ongoing probes currently taking place in Germany and in order to best preserve the interests of the company, Pierre Levi has handed the board his resignation as chairman and chief executive,” Faurecia said in a statement.
Mr Levi had been in the top two jobs at the firm since 2000.
He is being replaced by Frank Imbert, the firm’s current chief financial officer.
Deutsche Bank analyst Gaetan Toulemonde said Mr Levi’s resignation had been inevitable.
“It is necessary to calm the climate of suspicion and put things back together with Volkswagen in order to not lose contracts in Germany,” he said.
Prosecutors suspect the bribes started in 1998 at automotive supplier Sommer Allibert, which Faurecia bought in 2001.
They estimate that the total amount of bribes the company paid to carmakers is between 600,000 and 800,000 euros ($765,000 to $1m; £409,000 to £545,000).
Faurecia is majority-owned by French car group PSA Peugeot Citroen.