German prosecutors have begun an investigation Monday against former Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn.
The probe will look at “allegations of fraud in the sale of cars with manipulated emissions data”, the prosecutor’s office said.
Mr. Winterkorn resigned last week following the Volkswagen Emissions Test scandal involving the automaker’s use of a deceptive software which tricked regulators into believing that the vehicles were compliant with emission laws. In fact, the diesel vehicles are emitting harmful pollutants at rates of up to 40 times U.S. standards.
Winterkorn said that he had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions results. The head of VW’s Porsche division, Matthias Mueller, was appointed on Friday as Mr Winterkorn’s successor.
German Investigation Of Winterkorn
In the German legal system, anyone can file a criminal complaint with prosecutors, who are then obliged to examine them and decide whether there is enough evidence to open a formal investigation.
According to spokeswoman Julia Meyer, following the US revelations about the rigged tests, prosecutors in Braunschweig, near VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, received about a dozen complaints.
Over the weekend, German media reported that some of Volkswagen’s own staff and one of its suppliers had warned years ago about the illegal use of so-called “defeat devices” to detect when a car was being tested and alter the running of its engines.
Affected Audi Vehicles
On Monday, Audi, which is owned by VW, said 2.1 million of its cars worldwide were fitted with the software.Some 1.42 million Audi vehicles with so-called EU5 engines are affected in western Europe. There are almost 13,000 affected vehicles in the US.
Several European countries are launching their own investigations, and Switzerland has temporarily banned the sale of VW diesel-engine models.
Will Car Owners Fix The Problem?
Recalls already have an alarmingly low fix rate. In fact, almost 1/3 of recalled cars are never fixed. This includes safety recalls – which you might think car owners would be more likely to address. Instead, a large fraction of recalled cars are never fixed, because owners never get the notice, don’t realize it was serious, or never get around to bringing their cars in.
While the Volkswagen recall may be an easy fix, experts expect that even fewer car owners than average will bring their car in for a software update. Fixing a vehicle will reduce its performance. This could make it harder to sell in the future.
Fortunately, emissions tests are mandatory. You cannot register a vehicle without one. While the VW vehicles will pass the test once they’ve been fixed, it may be difficult to weed out the vehicles that are passing only because of the manipulative software.