Volkswagen has now suspended about 10 senior executives as part of its investigation into the crippling emissions scandal that has rocked Europe’s biggest carmaker.
Wolfsburg-based VW last month admitted to using an illegal piece of software in its diesel engines to cheat in US emissions tests.
People close to the internal investigation said a number of managers closely associated with the development of the engine at the centre of the scandal - codenamed EA 189 - had been suspended.
They include Richard Dorenkamp, at one time head of VW's technical development for lowest emission engines, and Falko Rudolph, the former head of development of diesel engines. Mr Rudolph is currently head of VW's factory in Kassel, 180km south-west of Wolfsburg.
Other senior managers affected include Ulrich Hackenberg, an Audi management board member, Wolfgang Hatz, who is on Porsche's management board and Heinz-Jakob Neusser, a management board members of VW. Mr Hatz and Mr Neusser were previously responsible for engine development.
Also suspended was Frank Tuch, VW's head of quality control. The six men could not be reached for comment
VW declined to comment on any personnel decisions. But the people close to the investigation stressed that the suspensions were a precautionary measure. The probe has not determined whether any of the suspended managers were involved or aware of wrongdoing.
People close to the investigation said that about four other senior managers had also been suspended but they declined to identify them.
German media have reported that several managers, including Mr Hackenberg, are disputing their suspensions.
VW has repeatedly stressed that a rogue group of employees were at the heart of the scandal.
Several people close to the carmaker said that investigators were looking at hundreds of people. They are trying to determine whether there was a small group actively involved in the deception, a larger group that knew about the cheating, and an even larger group that could or should have known about it.
They said internal investigators - led by US law firm Jones Day - would take months to wade through the material dating back more than a decade.
Attention is also focused on why VW’s management failed to inform both its supervisory board and investors about the emissions scandal between the carmaker’s admission of using a defeat device to US regulators on September 3 and the regulators’ public disclosure on September 18.
Outside law firms are considering suing on behalf of investors over the apparent lack of disclosure as well as launching a series of class action suits over the scandal in the US and Europe.
VW has said that up to 11 million vehicles worldwide contain the EA 189 diesel engine, which has the defeat device.
- (The Financial Times Limited)