The EU could introduce tougher car emissions tests following the Volkswagen rigging scandal, said senior European officials.
The German carmaker named company veteran Matthias Mueller as new CEO on Friday in an attempt to get to grips with a crisis that its chairman described as “a moral and political disaster”.
The appointment came as Swiss authorities said they were suspending sales of Volkswagen brand diesel vehicles that could contain devices capable of cheating emissions tests, including Audi, Seat, and Skoda vehicles built between 2009 and 2014. They said this could affect 180,000 vehicles.
European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans said Volkswagen bosses had to fully come clean about the scandal. “We have to stop fraud, and that’s why we have to get to the bottom of this,” he told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He said the EU could change laws to introduce stricter emissions tests.
Mueller pressed the board to move ahead with a reorganisation he helped devise before Volkswagen was caught up in an emissions-cheating scandal, as the new leader seeks to put his stamp on the company.
Volkswagen said on Friday that more authority will be given to individual brands and regions, a departure from the centralised structures that kept key decisions in Wolfsburg and the CEO’s inner circle.
The announcement capped a tumultuous week after the company admitted it rigged some diesel engines to cheat on emissions tests. The revelation cost the company €20bn in market value and prompted Winterkorn to step down.
German environment minister Barbara Hendricks said the European Commission and member states were considering stricter rules. “We are working on new, honest measuring methods in Brussels,” she told Handelsblatt newspaper. “We can’t just rely on tests in the lab,” she said, adding future tests should focus more on normal road conditions.
The close relationship between the German government and the country’s car industry has been thrown into the spotlight by the Volkswagen scandal.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, called on Volkswagen to take action to restore public trust in the industry. “We need a guarantee that cars of German manufacturers are in line with the norms, without manipulation,” he told Der Tagesspiegel .
Volkswagen could face $18bn (€16bn) in fines from the US EPA after it admitted using software in diesel cars to cheat emissions tests.
The carmaker has said 11m vehicles worldwide were fitted with software similar to the kind that allowed the company to rig the US tests, but said it was not turned on in the bulk of them.
Regulators and prosecutors across the world are investigating the scandal, while customers and investors are launching lawsuits. The wider car market has been affected too, with manufacturers fearing a drop in sales of diesel cars and tougher testing.
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