The automaker has also agreed to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties in the case brought by the Justice Department — part of $22 billion in settlements and fines Volkswagen is paying out in the United States, making it one of the costliest corporate scandals in history.
Mr. Schmidt’s cooperation would be a coup for the Justice Department’s case against Volkswagen. Mr. Schmidt is one of eight former Volkswagen executives who have been charged in the United States. The others are in Germany, and almost all are unlikely to face trials in the United States because Germany does not extradite its citizens.
Volkswagen declined to comment on Mr. Schmidt’s plea agreement but said in a statement that it “continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals.”
Mr. Schmidt is facing 11 felony counts and a maximum sentence of 169 years in prison. It is unclear to which charges he will plead guilty. Both his attorney, David DuMouchel, and a spokeswoman for the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan declined to comment. It is also unclear if he will agree to cooperate with prosecutors as a condition of his plea, although that is typical in such agreements.
Previously, Mr. Schmidt’s lawyers had indicated in court documents that they planned to argue that he was a minor player in the emissions fraud and had been misled by more senior executives and lawyers at Volkswagen.
Another former Volkswagen executive, James Robert Liang, has pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States government and to violate the Clean Air Act. Mr. Liang, who worked at a Volkswagen testing center in Oxnard, Calif., is cooperating with investigators and is awaiting sentencing.
Earlier in July, an Italian, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, who was head of thermodynamics in the engine development department at Volkswagen’s Audi division, was arrested by German authorities in Munich. His arrest was the first on German soil related to Volkswagen’s emissions fraud. Because he is not a German citizen, it is possible Mr. Pamio will be extradited to the United States.