Germany's Volkswagen Group scandal continues to gather momentum after federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt confirmed on Thursday that 2-litre and 1.6 litre diesel engines in Europe models were affected by manipulation software.
VW subsidiaries Audi, Skoda and Seat have confirmed they are now examining whether their models' engines, the same as those in the affected VW cars, were controlled by the same software that manipulates emissions.
A Volkswagen spokesman said the EA189 turbodiesel engine affected comes in three variants: 2-litre, 1.6-litre and a 1.2-litre three cylinder version.
“We have risk of 11 million motors with the same feed device, that’s true,” he said. “We cannot specify which have what.”
Audi confirmed that it used a version of the affected EA189 engine in its A1, A3, A4 and A6 models. A spokesman for the Ingolstadt company said it was unable to give any further details about which years or numbers of vehicles may be affected.
Seat and Skoda were similarly unable to give precise details. However the Skodas that feature the EA189 diesel in either 1.6-litre or 2-litre guise are: the Fabia, Roomster, Octavia and Superb models between the years 2009 and 2013.
A spokesman for the Spanish brand told El Pais there were potentially models affected in its groups but had no further detail. El Pais noted that up to half a million Seat cars could be involved.
80,000 Irish cars could be affected
New car sales statistics show nearly 80,000 Audi, Skoda, Seat and VW cars were sold in Ireland with 1.2-litre, 1.6-litre, 2-litre diesels between 2009 and 2014.
VW Group Ireland has declined to give any information on the number of cars affected or which models from the four brands are involved.
Volkswagen AG shares fell yet again on news of the widening scandal, followed by shares in BMW after a report that its X3 also failed to meet emission standards for nitrogen oxide. Unlike VW, Auto Bild magazine reported that the BMW problem was not caused by software manipulation.
Volkswagen has 15 engines in its mainstream vehicle range, shared across the brands. The policy ensures economies of scale in engine development and manufacture. But that policy could now backfire on the group, as a limited scandal turning into a global, groupwide crisis.
A spokesman for Volkswagen AG said the group was working “under great pressure” to compile a full list of vehicles in its 12-brand portfolio affected by the manipulated software.
Dark week at VW
A dark week for VW became even darker on Thursday when Germany's federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt went before the press in the Bundestag.
“We’ve been informed that, in addition, European vehicles with 1.6 litre and 2 litre diesel motors are affected from the manipulation under discussion,” he said.
The news stepped up the pressure on Germany’s car industry, with the bluechip DAX slipping near annual lows on Thursday to 9,400 points.
Four high-ranking Volkswagen AG managers are likely to be fired on Friday as a result of the scandal.
Audi executive Ulrich Hackenberg and Porsche's Wolfgang Hatz are likely to leave the group, according to reports. Other reports claim that VW development chief Heinz-Jakob Neußer and VW's US boss Michael Horn may also be shown the door.
According to Reuters, Skoda chief Winfried Vahland is the front-runner to take over the Volkswagen US operation. In an unfortunately-timed appointment, Audi chief Rupert Stadler was scheduled to deliver a speech this afternoon to the US chamber of commerce in Frankfurt. The title of the speech: "The Car of the Future Moves the American Dream."
Müller new CEO - reports
Volkswagen is reportedly preparing to name Porsche boss Matthias Müller as the new chief executive to replace Martin Winterkorn.
Müller (62) has a background as a computer scientist and tool maker, with a well-earned reputation for running a tight, successful team at Porsche and his position keeps him close to the Porsche and Piech families, who control 50.7 per cent of Volkswagen shares. Müller also spent many years at Audi.
He is regarded as a favourite of Ferdinand Piech, the ousted chairman and long-time patriarch of VW who may once more find himself behind the wheel at Wolfsburg, even if it’s as a backseat driver.
Labour representatives, occupying half of the 20 board seats, would “only accept a personality with great technical and entrepreneurial expertise as well as great social competence,” VW works council chief Bernd Osterloh said in a letter to employees published on Thursday.
“He is a good choice even though he may be seen as a transitionary CEO until another internal candidate such as VW brand CEO Diess has earned their stripes,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst at Evercore ISI investment banking advisory firm.
He said Müller’s priority would be to renew VW’s leadership, restructure costs and turn VW into a “performance-driven company” where management was more accountable.