VW made several defeat devices to cheat emissions tests: sources

Sat Oct 17, 2015 2:10pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer, Bruce Wallace and Paul Lienert

BERLIN/LOS ANGELES/DETROIT (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) made several versions of its "defeat device" software to rig diesel emissions tests, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters, potentially suggesting a complex deception by the German carmaker.

During seven years of self-confessed cheating, Volkswagen altered its illegal software for four engine types, said the sources, who include a VW manager with knowledge of the matter and a U.S. official close to an investigation into the company.

Spokespersons for VW in Europe and the United States declined to comment on whether it developed multiple defeat devices, citing ongoing investigations by the company and authorities in both regions.

Asked about the number of people who might have known about the cheating, a spokesman at company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, said: "We are working intensely to investigate who knew what and when, but it's far too early to tell."

Some industry experts and analysts said several versions of the defeat device raised the possibility that a range of employees were involved. Software technicians would have needed regular funding and knowledge of engine programs, they said.

The number of people involved is a key issue for investors because it could affect the size of potential fines and the extent of management change at the company, said Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst at banking advisory firm Evercore ISI.

Brandon Garrett, a corporate crime expert at the University of Virginia School of Law, said federal prosecution guidelines would call for the U.S. Justice Department to seek tougher penalties if numerous senior executives were found to have been involved in the cheating.  

"The more higher-ups that are involved, the more the company is considered blameworthy and deserving of more serious punishment," said Garrett.   Continued...

A Volkswagen logo stands next to a CCTV security camera in Wolfsburg, Germany October 7, 2015.   REUTERS/Axel Schmidt