It should have been obvious really.
Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Thursday that Volkswagen AG (VLKPY) may have cheated on its emissions tests in the European Union too, in the latest bad news for the Wolfsburg-based giant.
Dobrindt told reporters that early findings from the investigative commission he has set up showed that the company’s 1.6 liter and 2 liter diesel engines in Europe used the same “defeat device” to give artificially low emissions readings under lab testing conditions.
The news was already implicit in VW’s admission on Tuesday that 11 million of its vehicles worldwide ran on the Type 189 engine involved in the Environmental Protection Agency’s tests that triggered what is fast becoming Germany’s biggest corporate scandal in decades.
It exposes the company to a whole host of new legal risks, and means it’s less likely than ever that the reputational damage can be confined to the U.S., where the story broke.
Diesel vehicles account for around half of the new car market, where Volkswagen–with its stable of brands including Skoda, Seat and Audi–is market leader with a share of over 20%.
The scandal claimed the scalp of CEO Martin Winterkorn Wednesday, who resigned despite claiming that he had known nothing of the manipulations. Winterkorn said VW needed “a new start, and that includes personnel.”
Board member Berthold Huber signalled that the board had accepted Winterkorn’s protestations of innocence.
Dobrindt himself is under fire from opponents and campaigners who claim that his ministry had known that German diesel engines were violating legal norms on emissions for over a year before the EPA made it move, but had done nothing.