Business World

Thursday 22 February 2018

Volkswagen scandal: Prosecutors probe Winterkorn, crisis spreads to 2.1 million Audi cars worldwide

New Volkswagen boss Matthias Mueller
New Volkswagen boss Matthias Mueller

Julia Bradshaw

Prosecutors in Germany have opened a criminal probe into former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn, according to reports.

The investigation is understood to concentrate on accusations of fraud after it was revealed that VW had fitted 'defeat' devices in millions of its cars worldwise to cheat government emissions tests.

The probe aims to establish who was responsible, according to the statement from prosecutors in Braunschweig, Germany.

The prosecutors have also received a number of criminal complaints in the case, including one from Volkswagen itself.

Mr Winterkorn stepped down as CEO last week and was replaced by former Porsche boss Matthias Mueller.

The news came as Audi announced that the device used in Volkswagen cars to manipulate emissions tests was also fitted in 2.1 million of its own luxury cars.

Some 1.42 million Audi vehicles with so-called EU5 engines in Western Europe are fitted with the same software that allowed parent company Volkswagen to cheat US emissions tests, with 577,000 in Germany and almost 13,000 in the United States, a spokesman for Ingolstadt-based Audi told Reuters today.

Audi said the engine in question was built into 1.6-litre and 2-litre turbo diesel models in the A1, A3, A4, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5 ranges, PA has reported.

The cars involved have engines in the "euro 5" emissions category. Those with the newer "euro 6" engines aren't affected by the emissions scandal.

Volkswagen shares have fallen by as much as 7pc so far today.

It has also emerged that Volkswagen has suspended the R&D chiefs of its core VW brand, luxury division Audi and sports-car maker Porsche, sources familiar with the matter told reporters.

The carmaker's supervisory board last Friday agreed to put a number of employees on leave until the details of VW's emissions cheating scandal were cleared up.

VW sparked global outrage last week when it admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars are fitted with special gadgets that activate pollution controls during tests but secretly turn them off when the car is on the road.

The scandal has wiped billions off the value of the car giant and is set to land the German auto maker with substantial penalties and recall costs as governments and regulators around the world launch investigations - some of the criminal - into the scandal.

“If companies are breaking the rules and fiddling their figures, that is unacceptable,” Mr Cameron said as he flew to New York for a visit to the United Nations. “Emissions standards matter and they have to be properly policed and delivered.”

Any move to restrict sales would be “all a matter for the Transport Department,” he said.

German authorities have also demanded the carmaker present a timetable for fixing affected vehicles. 

The regulators have asked VW to come up with a plan by October 7 to show when its vehicles will meet emissions requirements.

Several law firms in the US and UK representing consumers say they are are preparing lawsuits against VW while the US Department of Justice has launched a probe into the affair.

A further 27 US states have begun a joint investigation of Volkswagen and are reportedly going to send subpoenas to the company - these are essentially writs compelling testimony or evidence to be produced or face a penalty.

Meanwhile, European environmental organisation, Transport & Environment, has said it has found some new models of Mercedes, Volkswagens, BMWs and other new cars consume much more petrol than lab tests claim, according to reports from PA.

The organisation said it had found no proof the cars are equipped with the same sort of "defeat devices" installed on diesel-powered Volkswagens, but called on European Union governments to broaden their probes into the scandal to cover petrol cars as well.

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