Revelations about Audi’s potential involvement in VW’s diesel emissions scandal keep piling up.
Volkswagen’s luxury car subsidiary Audi has manipulated diesel engines in the United States to circumvent environmental laws, German media reported late on Wednesday, citing findings by U.S. law firm Jones Day.
VW has commissioned law firm Jones Day to look into the carmaker’s diesel scandal, which affects 11 million cars worldwide across its Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda brands.
An Audi engineer sent an email in 2007 to a large number of managers, warning that the luxury carmaker would not be able to comply with strict U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions rules “without cheating,” the media reported.
Four high-ranking Audi engineers have been suspended because they were involved in developing illegal software, or knew of this, to manipulate diesel emissions of 3-liter cars, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and state-broadcasters NDR and WDR jointly reported, citing the Jones Day investigation.
Audi declined to comment on the findings of NDR, WDR and newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
When U.S. authorities last November accused Audi of manipulating 3-liter diesel cars, the automaker initially denied it but later said it had failed to notify authorities of certain software functions.
There have been revelations over the past week that Audi could be more deeply involved in the Dieselgate affair as Jones Day’s investigators questioned Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler and Audi’s head of development, Stefan Knirsch, was suspended over alleged links to the emissions scandal.
According to Handelsblatt sources, investigators questioned Mr. Stadler for hours, but the chief executive denied any knowledge or complicity in the emissions scandal. Nothing new of substance was brought to the table, the sources said.
Stephan Weil, the premier of VW’s home state of Lower Saxony, said the fact that Mr. Stadler was questioned does not necessarily indicate involvement in the emissions cheating.
“The investigation by the U.S. law firm Jones Day is going very deep,” Mr. Weil said. “The fact that somebody was questioned doesn’t mean there are accusations against them.”
Mr. Weil, a center-left Social Democrat, also serves on Volkswagen’s supervisory board. The state of Lower Saxony has 20-percent stake in the automaker.
“I was also questioned about what I knew and when,” Mr. Weil said. “That’s of course completely in order.”
VW is still negotiating with U.S. regulators, and with lawyers, over recalling around 85,000 3-liter diesel cars, primarily SUVs from the VW, Audi and Porsche brands. Within the VW Group, Audi is responsible for these 3-liter diesel cars.
Jones Day’s investigation has found that an Audi engineer sent an email in 2007 to a large number of managers, warning that the luxury carmaker would not be able to comply with strict U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions rules “without cheating,” the media reported. Nitrogen oxide is a toxic gas which contributes to creating smog.
The investigators further found indications that Audi engineers also contributed to emissions manipulation at VW, the newspaper and broadcasters said.
In April, Handelsblatt reported that Audi engine developers at the carmaker’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, located in southern Germany, were trying to work out how to meet increasingly demanding emission limits as far back as 1999.
Separately, VW has committed to repairing all manipulated diesel cars in Europe – 8.5 million in total – by fall of next year at the latest, the European Commissioner for justice and consumer rights, Vera Jourova said Wednesday after a meeting with VW executive board Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, news agency Reuters reported.
“It will take some time until the last proceeding is concluded in the last country in the world,” Mr. Weil said of the emissions scandal. “It is and remains a huge mess.”
Handelsblatt editors Heike Anger, Martin Murphy, Thomas Sigmund, Markus Fasse and Stefan Menzel and Handelsblatt Global Edition editor Gilbert Kreijger contributed to this story. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com