Ex-Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has become the first top VW executive to be put on trial in Germany.
According to The Times, he faces charges of “fraud, falsifying certifications and false advertising”. Ex-Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz and two Audi engineers also face the same charges.
Not a single senior executive has been convicted over the scam in Germany, although two VW employees have received jail terms in the United States, The Times noted.
The complex trial is expected to last until December 2022.
Five years after “dieselgate” emissions cheating revelations rocked the car industry, ex-Audi CEO Rupert Stadler on Wednesday becomes the first top executive to stand trial in Germany.
Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 it had installed manipulating software in 11m diesels worldwide.
The so-called defeat devices made the vehicles appear less polluting in lab tests than they were in real driving conditions, allowing the vehicles to emit toxic gases far beyond the legal limit.
The Times said Intense media interest in the Stadler case coupled with coronavirus precautions had led Munich court officials to move proceedings to a larger room in a justice building outside the city centre.
If found guilty, the accused face up to 10 years in jail.
The Times noted Volkswagen had always insisted the diesel trickery was the work of a handful of lower level employees acting without the knowledge of superiors, although prosecutors dispute this.
Stadler had been Audi’s chief executive for 11 years when he was arrested in June 2018.
He spent four months in pretrial detention owing to concerns he could try to influence witnesses.
A career Audi man, he joined the luxury car maker in 1990 and was named CEO in 2007.
According to The Times, prosecutors say Stadler knew about the scam by the end of September 2015 “at the latest” but nevertheless allowed thousands more vehicles fitted with illegal defeat devices to be sold.
His three fellow defendants are accused of having developed diesel engines equipped with the manipulating software, and allegedly installed in cars sold by the VW group as far back as 2009.
The charges cover a total of 434,420 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles sold in Europe and the United States.
Stadler has consistently denied the accusations.
Co-accused Hatz, whose past roles at the VW group include research and development chief at its Porsche unit, also rejects any wrongdoing.
His lawyer said Hatz would respond to the charges “in detail”.
The Times said a regional tribunal in Brunswick, near VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters, ruled earlier this month that Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of the VW group, must stand trial on charges of fraud and stock market manipulation.
The group’s current CEO Herbert Diess and supervisory board chair Hans Dieter Poetsch faced similar accusations of failing to inform shareholders in a timely manner of the pollution scam.
But those proceedings were dropped after VW agreed to a settlement that cost it EUR9m (US$10.5m).
The “dieselgate” saga has already cost VW more than EUR30bn in fines, legal costs and compensation to car owners, mainly in the United States, The Times said.
The Times said Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ bill was not quite settled yet.
In April, VW settled Germany’s biggest lawsuit in an out of court settlement in which it agreed to pay around EUR750m euros to 235,000 customers, or between EUR1,350 and EUR6,250 per car.
It is now trying to reach settlements with up to 60,000 individual claimants after a German court issued a landmark ruling in May ordering VW to buy back a manipulated diesel from its owner, the report added.