VW’s Audi says 2.1 mln cars fitted with emission-cheating software

VW’s Audi says 2.1 mln cars fitted with emission-cheating software

FRANKFURT - Agence France-Presse
VW’s Audi says 2.1 mln cars fitted with emission-cheating software

AFP photo

Volkswagen’s top-of-the-range automaker Audi said on Sept. 28 that 2.1 million of its diesel cars worldwide are fitted with the sophisticated software enabling them to cheat emission tests.

In Germany alone, 577,000 vehicles were affected and 13,000 in the United States, an Audi spokesman said. In western Europe as a whole, the number was 1.42 million.     

The models concerned were the A1, A3, A4, A6, Q3, Q5 and also the TT, the spokesman said.  VW sparked global outrage last week when it admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars are equipped with so-called defeat devices that activate pollution controls during tests but covertly turn them off when the car is on the road.

German prosecutors also announced on Sept. 28 they have opened a criminal investigation into Volkswagen’s former chief executive Martin Winterkorn over a worldwide pollution cheating scandal.  Winterkorn resigned in the mist of global outrage after the scandal broke out. 

In his resignation statement last week, the 68-year-old German car boss, a renowned perfectionist in the industry, said he “not aware” of having done anything wrong.

Last week, the VW board tapped company insider Matthias Mueller, chief of its luxury sports car brand Porsche, to steer the world’s largest automaker out of the wreckage.

Probe opened against former chief 

“Following a number of legal suits, the public prosecutors in Brunswick have opened an investigation against Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive of Volkswagen,” the German prosecutors said in a statement.

“The investigation will focus on the allegation of fraud by selling vehicles with manipulated emission values,” it added.

“The aim of the investigation is to clarify the chain of responsibility,” it added.     

A top executive for embattled Volkswagen will hold talks in Brussels with a senior EU official on Sept. 30, a spokesman said, in an effort to soothe tensions before European ministers discuss the car testing scandal later in the week. The EU’s Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska will meet Herbert Diess, the head of the auto group’s Volkswagen brand who had been on the shortlist to replace Martin Winterkorn as CEO, before Porsche chief Matthias Mueller was named to the post.

The German government said it had given Volkswagen until October 7 to submit measures and a timetable to fix vehicles that have been fitted with the cheating software, a ministry spokesman said. The devices can switch on pollution controls when they detect the car is undergoing testing. They then switch off the controls when the car is on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of emissions.

The Federal Motor Transport Authority said it  had asked “Volkswagen to submit binding measures and a timetable on when a technical solution on the affected cars can be implemented.”   

The authority gave the company a deadline of October 7 to submit the plan, Transport Ministry spokesman Martin Susteck told a regular government news briefing.

After the severe battering VW shares took last week in the wake of the revelations, the stock continued to slide on Sept. 28, shedding nearly seven percent.  

According to German media reports at the weekend, Volkswagen ignored warnings from staff and a supplier years ago that the emission test rigging software was illegal. The spiraling scandal has badly tarnished VW’s name, left it exposed to up to $18 billion (16 billion euros) in U.S. fines, and wiped a third off its stock market value in a week.