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France to investigate Volkswagen for ‘aggravated fraud’

Patrik Stollarz, AFP | The Volkswagen symbol

Paris prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into German carmaker Volkswagen for “aggravated fraud” following recent revelations that it programmed its cars to conceal true emissions data, a judicial source told French media on Friday.


Volkswagen has admitted to rigging its cars to detect when they were being tested and alter the running of their diesel engines to conceal their actual emissions.

The company cheated on diesel emissions tests in the United States and is suspected of having manipulated data in Europe as well, where the company sells about 40 percent of its vehicles.

The Paris prosecutor’s office decided to launch the investigation into Volkswagen after news of the faked tests broke last month, the judicial source said.

The company's former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned last week over the scandal. He has since been replaced by Porsche boss Matthias Mueller.

Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, has set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to help cover the cost of the crisis, but some analysts think the final bill could be much higher.

The company has said it will refit up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide containing software designed to beat emission tests. It also faces potential fines from regulators and prosecutors, lawsuits from consumers and investors, and a possible hit to sales from the damage to its reputation.

The scandal is an embarrassment to Germany, which has long held up Volkswagen as a model of its engineering prowess.

It has also rattled the global car industry, with manufacturers worried it could lead to more costly regulations and a drop in sales of diesel vehicles.


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