German prosecutors raid more homes over Audi emissions claims

26 February 2018

26 February 2018

German prosecutors have searched the homes of current and former Audi management board members as they further widen their investigation into the company’s role in an emissions scandal.

Two of the three individuals affected by the searches are no longer on the manufacturer’s board of management, according to Munich prosecutors. The company is already under investigation with the country’s transport authority, the KBA, over whether it manipulated emissions in its A8 model.

According to German publication Wirtschaftswoche, former development heads Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch were involved, although the manufacturer has not confirmed or denied it, instead announcing that they were cooperating with the investigation.

Current Audi executives are still not among the suspects in emissions manipulations, with 17 in total under investigation. The searches highlight that despite best efforts, the Volkswagen Group, to which Audi belongs, cannot shake off the stigma of Dieselgate, the scandal which it started in 2015.

In January, investigators raided other properties connected with the company, including former executive’s homes and Audi’s headquarters. Audi developed 3.0-litre V-6 diesel engines used in about 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche models that in 2015 were found to be equipped with illicit software and to exceed US emissions limits.

′Now the focus of investigators is on the use of technical means to manipulate the emissions levels of 3.0-litre V-6 diesel engines intended for the European market,’ the prosecutors’ office said in a statement at the time.

Also in January, the carmaker was forced to issue a recall for 127,000 vehicles after the KBA, detected illegal emission control software.

The recall involves the company’s latest Euro 6 diesel models, with the A4, A5, A6, A7 and A8, together with the Q5 and Q7 SUVs implicated. This covers 77,600 vehicles throughout German, with the remainder based in Europe.

The KBA has found that the affected cars’ engine management systems turn off emissions-reducing measures in real-world traffic while allowing them to work on a test bench, a report in the newspaper Bild am Sonntag suggested. The KBA is threatening to withdraw type approval for the latest generation of Audi’s A8 range-topping, the paper continued.

Porsche is also seeking €200m in damages for the 3-litre Audi diesel engines which the brand featured in its Cayenne SUV and was later discovered to have the emissions-cheating software. This embroiled Porsche in the Dieselgate scandal and, in July, it was ordered by authorities in Germany to recall 22,000 Cayenne models. Furthermore, in August, Switzerland’s road agency imposed a preliminary ban on new registrations of Porsche Cayenne models equipped with ′defeat device’ software.

The news of investigations comes as Germany is looking at implementing driving bans in some cities following a challenge by environmental groups in the country. Courts are expected to rule on whether such bans are legal and enforceable later this week. Any ruling in favour of not allowing diesel vehicles in cities could have large implications on the German market, which has remained fairly stable in the face of adversity, unlike those in other European markets, such as France and the UK.

Photograph courtesy of Audi