A Chinese environmental group has said it is taking legal action against Volkswagen over its use of software to cheat emission tests in a move widely reported in China's media.

The "China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation" said it has filed a public interest suit in a court in the eastern port city of Tianjin. The Beijing-based organisation said it has entered the case against VW because it "produced the problematic vehicles for the pursuit of higher profits and circumvented Chinese laws, which has worsened the air pollution and affected public health and rights".

The China Daily reported that the "No 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin" has accepted the lawsuit.

While so-called 'dieselgate' is of limited relevance to China because of the low number of diesel cars sold there, the adverse publicity of a legal case in such an important market will undoubtedly be of concern to Volkswagen.

In the lawsuit, the group asked the court to order the automaker to apologise for the cheating and to compensate for the environmental pollution, the details of which will be released after agencies finish their assessments. It also asked that VW be required to provide environmental remediation.

Analysts note that air pollution is a sensitive subject in China due to the smog problems the country experiences in its major cities.