German prosecutors have searched the two biggest plants of carmaker Audi and several of its other sites over the emissions test cheating scandal by parent company Volkswagen.
Prosecutors in Munich have said their investigation is focused on the sale of around 80,000 Audi diesel vehicles in the United States.
Audi admitted in late 2015 that its 3.0 litre V6 diesel engines were fitted with emissions control devices deemed illegal in the US.
Who knew what
The raids are the first at Audi since VW’s diesel scandal broke 18 months ago. They centered on who was involved in the use of any illicit software used for the engines.
“With these search orders we aim to clarify in particular who was involved in deploying the technology concerned and in the provision of false information to third parties,” the Munich prosecutor’s office said in a statement, without naming any suspects.
Cars sold in European markets are outside the scope of the investigation, the prosecutor said.
Chief Executive Rupert Stadler gave a press conference on the company’s performance just hours after news of the raids broke. He would not comment on the investigation beyond saying Audi is “fully cooperating with authorities”.
Stadler, who has run Audi since 2007, has been criticised for his handling of the emissions scandal but said on Wednesday he continues to command the VW board’s full support, reiterated publicly last month.
Audi last year increased its diesel scandal-related provisions to 1.63 billion euros and has said it does not expect to have to do so again. The carmaker also recorded costs of 162 million euro for the recall of cars fitted with airbags made by the Japanese firm Takata.
The group reported a 37 percent drop in operating profit to 3.1 billion euros for 2016, reducing its return on sales to 5.1 percent from 8.3 percent a year earlier.
Diesel engines in some VW group cars were fitted with software that detected when the vehicle was being tested and turned the emissions controls on. They were turned off during every day driving.
The result was cars that emitted some 40 times the US limits of nitrogen oxides, a pollutant that can harm people’s health. Millions of cars worldwide had the deceptive software.
In addition to the Munich investigation of Audi prosecutors in Braunschweig, Germany, are also investigating Volkswagen itself for possible criminal misconduct.