Germany orders nationwide recall of VW’s dirty diesels

October 15, 2015, 11:31 AM UTC
The logo of German car maker Volkswagen (VW) is seen at Northern Virginia dealer in Woodbridge, Virginia on September 29, 2015.
Photograph by Paul J. Richards — AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s auto regulator has ordered Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) to recall all the cars in the country that are fitted with emissions cheating software.

The order from the Kraftfahrbundesamt, or KBA, effectively overrules the proposals that the scandal-hit company had sent in last week for fixing the problem of excess emissions from its older diesel cars. VW, which argues that all its cars are technically safe and legal to drive, had wanted drivers to decide for themselves whether or not to bring their cars in to be fixed. VW said at first that 2.8 million cars in Germany were affected, but only 2.4 million of these are actually still on the roads.

The German authorities are under pressure to prove that they are capable of properly policing the domestic auto lobby, which accounts for 13% of all jobs in the country. That has given it huge political influence both at home and further afield. Its influence played a large role in ensuring that producers’ claims about their cars’ fuel efficiency and emissions performance aren’t adequately tested under real-world conditions in the E.U..

The KBA’s order means that the authorities will have more control over the recall process and push VW to complete the recall faster (something that might make it more expensive for VW).

However, Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said last week that the original goal of fixing all of the affected cars–which account for over one in four of all the VW cars affected worldwide by the scandal–by the end of 2016 now looks unlikely, because an essential component for fixing 1.6 liter engines won’t be available until September.

“We have to be realistic,” a KBA spokesman told Fortune Wednesday. “There are various types of engine that need fixing and different solutions will be needed.”

Dobrindt said Wednesday VW will have to say by the end of November exactly how it intends to bring its 1.2 and 1.6-liter EA189 engines into line with legal limits on emissions. It has to do the same for its 2-liter engines by the end of this month.

Volkswagen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The news adds to the steadily-mounting pressure on Europe’s largest automaker, which is already facing a criminal probe and dozens of civil suit from Germany to the U.S..

State prosecutors raided the company’s Wolfsburg HQ and private homes last week as part of their investigation, while Politico reported Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission is looking into claims of deceptive marketing by the company in the U.S., where it had aggressively pushed its “clean diesel” technology.

Elsewhere Thursday, German media reported that a fourth manager at the company has been suspended, apparently in connection with the affair. Falko Rudolph, head of a factory in Baunatal in central Germany, was one of the engineers involved in developing the EA189 engine at the heart of the scandal, according to the broadcaster n-tv.

This story has been updated to include comment from Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt and news of Falko Rudolph’s suspension.