The software at the centre of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in the US was built into its cars in Europe as well, though it is not yet clear if it helped cheat tests as it did in the US.
A day after long-time chief executive Martin Winterkorn stepped down, a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board said he expected more resignations at the car manufacturer in the wake of the scandal.
The US Environmental Protection Agency disclosed that stealth software makes Volkswagen’s 2009-2015 model cars powered by 2.0-litre diesel engines run cleaner during emissions tests than in actual driving.
The agency accused the company of installing the so-called “defeat device” in 482,000 cars sold in the US.
Volkswagen later acknowledged that similar software exists in 11m diesel cars worldwide and set aside €6.5bn to cover the costs of the scandal.
The company has told officials the vehicles in question included cars with 1.6-litre and 2-litre diesel engines in Europe, said German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt.
“We don’t yet have figures for how many of these 11 million cars that are apparently affected are in Europe. That will be cleared up in the next few days,” Mr Dobrindt said.
Authorities will continue working with Volkswagen to determine which cars exactly are involved. It is not yet clear to what extent the scandal affects other brands in the Volkswagen Group, which has 12 brands in all — including Seat, Audi, Skoda, and Porsche. It was also not clear if the software would have led to Volkswagen cheating on emissions tests outside the US as well.
Mr Dobrindt this week set up a commission of inquiry to look into the scandal. The motor transport authority is conducting static and road tests on Volkswagen models and spot tests on cars made by other manufacturers, German and foreign.
Olaf Lies, economy and transport minister of Volkswagen’s home state Lower Saxony, which holds a 20% stake in the company, said the investigation into the scandal was just starting.
“There must be people responsible for allowing the manipulation of emission levels to happen,” he said.
Mr Winterkorn had said, on Wednesday, he took responsibility for the “irregularities” found by US inspectors in Volkswagen’s diesel engines, but said he had personally done nothing wrong.
Volkswagen is filing a criminal complaint with German prosecutors, seeking to identify those responsible for any illegal actions in connection with the scandal.
Other car companies have seen the Volkswagen scandal weigh down their shares.
Yesterday, shares in BMW fell 5.2% after Germany’s Auto Bild magazine reported road tests by the International Council on Clean Transportation showed the BMW X3 xdrive model exceeding European emissions limits by more than 11 times. It did not say what was the cause of the alleged problem.
BMW said it was not familiar with the test and would ask the council for clarification. It said “the BMW Group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests”.
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