SYDNEY (Reuters) - The number of vehicles sold in Australia fitted with devices designed to mask the level of emissions has risen to more than 90,000 from 77,000, to include the Audi brand, widening a global scandal that engulfed German automaker Volkswagen.
The Australian unit of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) said it had set up a website for customers to see if their vehicles, including almost 55,000 Volkswagen branded passenger cars, 5,000 Skodas and more than 17,000 Volkswagen commercial vehicles, had the affected EA 189 diesel engines.
A spokeswoman for Audi Australia confirmed a further 14,000 Audis had also been fitted with the device.
The biggest business crisis in Volkswagen’s 78-year history has wiped more than a third off its share price, forced out its longtime chief executive and sent shockwaves through both the global car industry and the German establishment.
“Volkswagen Group Australia takes this issue extremely seriously and is continuing to gather all the facts from our head office to support any rectification plans in Australia,” Managing Director John White said in a statement.
“We understand the disappointment and frustration felt by our customers, dealers and partners in Australia and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We are doing everything possible to fix the problem and will be making further announcements,” White added.
Australian regulators have launched an enquiry to determine whether consumers have been misled. They say Volkswagen faces legal action and millions of dollars in fines if found to have breached consumer laws.
“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently investigating whether Volkswagen and Audi exposed consumers to false, misleading or deceptive representations,” said the Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Paul Fletcher.
Critics have taken aim at Volkswagen for what they call its slow response to the scandal in Australia and elsewhere.
While it admitted on Sept. 22 that 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with illegal software, Volkswagen only began providing information to customers on Friday about whether their cars and vans were affected.
Volkswagen’s chief executive told a German newspaper the company would launch a recall in January for cars affected by its diesel emissions crisis and complete the fix by the end of next year.
Additional reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez