Audi suspends 2 engineers following U.S. emissions stumble

BERLIN (Reuters) — Volkswagen Group’s luxury unit Audi has suspended two engineers after its larger diesel engines were found to have evaded emissions limits in the U.S., Rupert Stadler, Audi’s CEO, was quoted as saying in a newspaper report on Thursday.

Volkswagen and Audi notified U.S. authorities last Thursday that about 85,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines were fitted with emissions-control equipment that was not disclosed to U.S. regulators.

The news widened a scandal at parent VW Group that has led to the ouster of its longtime CEO, Martin Winterkorn, and wiped more than 20 billion euros ($21 billion) off the group’s market value.

Audi is now investigating whether employees in technical development and other departments deliberately manipulated emission-control devices. The automaker has suspended two engineers, Stadler said in an interview with the Donaukurier regional newspaper, without giving any further details.

The admission from Audi, which contributes about 40 percent to VW group profit, is raising pressure on Stadler, a 25-year VW Group veteran who has led Audi for nine years.

Asked by the paper about potential personal consequences, the 52-year-old executive said: “What’s at stake now is [to find out] the truth and I will not rest until everything is on the table.”

The V-6 diesel engine was designed and assembled by Audi at its factory in Neckarsulm, Germany, and widely used in premium models sold by the group’s VW, Audi and Porsche brands in model years 2009 through 2016, Audi said on Monday.

The Audi suspensions take the number of officials confirmed to have been put on leave across the group as a result of its internal investigations to eight, including at least six senior executives.

VW is facing an emissions scandal on three fronts: the cheating software installed in about 11 million smaller diesel vehicles worldwide; irregular carbon-dioxide ratings on about 800,000 vehicles; and the probe into 85,000 larger diesel engines in the U.S.