German automaker Audi, owned by the Volkswagen, has installed illegal software to modify emissions tests on 24,000 of its diesel vehicles, a new episode in the rigged engine scandal, the German Transport Minister said on Thursday.
Audi “has installed an unauthorized disconnection device,” Alexander Dobrindt said at a press conference quoted by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).
A spokesman for the manufacturer said that the high-end brand in Ingolstadt (south) was working “closely with the authorities”.
According to Dobrindt, the fraud concerns 24,000 new diesel vehicles in Europe, including 14,000 in Germany, and was intended to make them look greener than they really were.
No Audi vehicle had been previously caught in Germany with the fraudulent software, says the DPA.
In the United States, the brand had already been questioned for some 80,000 vehicles in the framework of the Volkswagen scandal, revealed in September 2015 and which concerns 11 million diesel vehicles of the group worldwide equipped with software destined to cheat emissions tests.
Some of the vehicles in question were equipped with three-liter diesel engines developed by Audi.
As for the fraud revealed Thursday, Audi had installed similar software, able to detect when the vehicles were in testing phase in order to modify the values of polluting emissions, Dobrindt said.
The cheating was discovered Wednesday on vehicles of the models A8 and A7 built between 2009 and 2013 and equipped with V6 and V8 engines, according to Alexander Dobrindt.
“This is the first time that we have discovered the presence of this software on this type of cars,” Dobrindt explained.
“It is obvious that these vehicles can not remain as they are and must be recalled,” he said.
In mid-March, German Justice had searched several premises of Audi in the framework of an extensive investigation in Germany to determine the responsibilities of the branch in the VW scandal.
Audi also faces other problems, such as loss of ground against its compatriots Mercedes-Benz (Daimler Group) and BMW, and a drop in sales in China related to a dispute with its distributors in the country.
Audi’s CEO, Rupert Stadler, admitted a few days ago that his brand has been going through a “difficult period” since the diesel scandal broke out a year and a half ago.