Employees of the German luxury car maker Porsche are now being eyed by investigators in the emissions scandal which is slowly engulfing the industry and has already led to criminal and civil charges in America.
Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) is facing fresh pressure over its long-running "Diseselgate" emissions scandal with German state prosecutors launching a probe on Monday for the first time into employees of Porsche, which is a subsidiary of the VW group.
The prosecutors in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart, a traditional car industry bastion, said in a statement they had opened a probe against "persons unknown working for the car maker and a US subsidiary."
The investigation is looking into the "suspicion of fraud and false advertising" and stems from "possible manipulation of exhaust treatment in diesel vehicles from Porsche."
The long road
Volkswagen, the world's largest carmaker, admitted in September 2015 to using what has been termed "defeat device" software to cheat regulatory emissions tests in some 11 million cars sold worldwide.
The devices allowed the cars to spew up to 40 times the permissible limits of nitrogen oxide during normal driving, but this was hidden during emissions testing.
Now the company faces an array of legal challenges worldwide relating to these devices, installed mainly in own-brand vehicles but also in cars made by some of its 11 other brands, like Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat.
In the United States, VW settled criminal and civil charges by paying a $4.3 billion (4.1 billion euros) fine. So far in total the carmaker has agreed to payouts of some $23 billion, most of which are for environmental cleanup and compensation to dealers and around 600,000 car owners.
Who knew what, when?
Referring to US files on the case, the Sunday edition of the Bild tabloid reported that former VW group chief Martin Winterkorn was aware that the company was manipulating emissions tests two months before the company revealed details of the affair.
Winterkorn resigned shortly after the scandal broke, plunging the company into the biggest corporate scandal in its history.
Current Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller led Porsche AG between 2010 and 2015 before taking charge at the parent company after Winterkorn stepped down.
Stuttgart prosecutors said in May they were investigating Mueller over market manipulation, suspecting he failed to share information about the diesel cheating scandal quickly enough with shareholders as a director of Porsche SE.
Porsche SE, separate from car maker Porsche AG, is a company owned by descendants of VW Beetle creator Ferdinand Porsche that holds a controlling stake in Volkswagen.
These latest developments in the scandal coincided with the release on Monday of figures by the company, which showed sales of its core Volkswagen brand cars rising by 4 percent in June compared with the same month in 2016.
tr/jf (AFP, dpa)