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German transport minister Dobrindt to be grilled over VW emissions

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt is due to appear before a parliamentary committee on VW emissions cheating. Most notable though, is one figure - former VW chairman Ferdinand Piech - who won't be attending.

Dobrindt was set to answer questions from the parliamentary committee on Thursday, facing questions over how much the government knew about the VW emissions affair.

EU law means that automakers earn a green light from their own national governments to sell cars across the trading block - and beyond. However, critics claim that regulators are able to turn a blind eye to issues that might prevent manufacturers selling their vehicles abroad.

Ahead of the Bundestag hearing, it was expected that Dobrindt would be asked about the degree of government scrutiny over emissions testing.

Bundesverkehrsminister Alexander Dobrindt bei VW (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

Dobrindt has said other countries need to clean up their acts on emissions testing

The "Dieselgate" scandal hit the headlines when Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it installed test-cheating software devices in 11 million diesel-engine cars. The devices reduced emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides when they detected that vehicles were undergoing tests.

The affair damaged the VW brand and saw it buffeted by a series of lawsuits, particularly in the US.

Since the scandal Dobrindt has himself called on counterparts in other EU countries to ensure the emissions testing regime is rigorous enough. He claimed a range of other carmakers' vehicles exhibited irregularities.

At the hearing on Thursday, expert Alois Krasenbrink said that emissions testing as long as a decade ago by the EU Commission showed a difference between testing and real road data in several carmakers' products. Brands that showed such differences included Fiat, Renault and BMW.

Top directors informed?

Also up for questioning is Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil, who is a supervisory board member at VW. The state is the carmaker's second largest shareholder.

Former VW chairman Piech has been cited as alleging that Weil knew about potential problems over exhaust gas testing six months before the VW emissions scandal broke.

Quoting court documents, the mass circulation newspaper Bild am Sonntag and news magazine Spiegel reported that Piech told prosecutors he had informed top directors at VW, including Weil, about the unfolding scandal as early as February 2015 - months before it became public.

Piech, however, has refused to publicly confirm the allegations and said he would not attend the parliamentary committee, despite being requested to do so.

Watch video 01:23

Former VW boss denies knowledge of rigging

"If he had nothing to hide, he ought to have come," committee chairman Herbert Behrens told  the Funke Mediengruppe group of newspapers after Piech refused to show up.

According to the Bild am Sonntag and Spiegel reports, Piech also raised the issue with former VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn. Winterkorn was questioned by the parliamentary committee last month, when he denied early knowledge of the affair.

rc/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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