Volkswagen has begun to narrow the focus of its internal Dieselgate investigation. The probe, conducted by the independent U.S. law firm Jones Day supported by consultants from Deloitte, has sharpened its focus to 20 people, a source close to the investigation told Reuters yesterday. Sources had informed Reuters earlier this month that ten senior managers had been suspended as a result of the ongoing probe. Six individuals are reportedly named.
The ongoing internal probe is looking at as many as 40 persons, sources said, who were involved in some way with the illegal activities. “This includes a number of people who can be ruled out as perpetrators but who were witnesses,” a source said. The number of those actively involved in the Dieselgate scheme is in the 10 to 20 range, the source said. The exact number of persons believed to have participated actively in the emissions cheating scandal is supposed to be confidential. VW has declined any comment.
The internal investigation follows last month’s admission by the automaker that it had cheated on its diesel emissions testing by installing cheatware in the automotive computer systems of as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide. In the U.S., the automaker informed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that 500,000 cars were affected by the scheme in which engineers had to install engine management software that game testing systems so that VW diesels passed emission rule. The trick used was a “defeat switch,” or software routine that recognized certain telltales that could indicate a test was underway. The telltales included wheel slip angles, rotational speed, whether vehicle stability control was on or off and the like. If the software saw changes that agreed with its algorithm, the VW went into “test mode” and passed emissions rule. At the end of the test, it would go back to standard mode for performance and fuel economy. At the same time, emissions rose by about 40 times.
Meantime, in the German city of Braunschweig, investigators are looking closely at several people for possible criminal acts. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said the charges those people may face could be fraud or violation of competition rules. Prosecutors raided VW’s offices Wolfsburg seeking evidence in their investigation. Prosecutors are looking at electronic and other materials dating back to 2005 when VW decided to push diesel technology. Matthias Mueller, recently appointed the head of VW, has said those responsible will face severe consequences.
In other Dieselgate-related news, VW has set aside $7.3 billion for initial Dieselgate costs. Though no one knows that the final tally will be, some have speculated that it could be as high as $43.5 billion, said Automotive News yesterday.