While VW sales haven’t fallen significantly in the UK, prosecutors in Europe are sharpening their swords as the emissions scandal fallout continues to fester. France called it “aggravated fraud” as it launched a probe into VW’s emissions practices that saw it acknowledge it had cheated the process in order to make its cars appear more efficient than they may be during normal use. In September last year VW held its hands up, saying up to 11m diesel cars had software-based devices implemented on them to ensure readings of nitrogen oxide levels would fall below acceptable levels.
German prosecutors have revealed they have increased the number of VW employees to be investigated as its chief executive Matthias Mueller warned staff the company would suffer from a “substantial and painful” impact on both its finances and reputation. Shares within the company fell 4% after Mueller’s comments.
The true cost of the emissions scandal to VW could hit the company by as much as $50bn after lawsuits, fines and other expenses are taken into consideration. French authorities are now weighing in on the investigation following an inquiry in the autumn of 2015. A Paris prosecutor confirmed it had found evidence that proved VW had cheated. Indeed, France was quick to launch its investigation after the revelations first came to light after US regulators noticed the issue in late 2015. 100 cars were quickly tested from a range of car-makers, both domestic and international, to check emissions levels. In January it said its research had found VW to be cheating the system.
Nathalie Homobono, part of the prosecution’s team, said VW had cheated with what she termed “intent”. Furthermore, German prosecutors are targeting individual employees. Having investigated six members of the VW workforce, it has widened its investigation to as many as 17 employees. At this time it isn’t known whether the ten previously suspended senior managers are part of the latest investigation.