Angela Merkel’s German government turned a blind eye to Volkswagen emissions rigging, it has been claimed, according to a British media report. The news came after the automaker's CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned and the crisis continued to escalate worldwide.

A written parliamentary answer showed German ministers were warned months ago of the so-called 'defeat device' cheat software on diesel engines, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday (24 September).

The broadsheet said the transport ministry answered a question about the motoring industry on 28 July in which it said: "The federal government is aware of [defeat devices], which have the goal of [test] cycle detection."

Some US media reports this week have mentioned the availability of aftermarket 'defeat' devices so the technology is not unknown in the auto sector.

The Telegraph noted the parliamentary answer did not mention Volkswagen but the suggestion by the country’s Green party, which posed the question, was that it was referring to the automaker.

The report said there now were suggestions the scandal could widen to fuel consumption data after consumer groups warned they, too, could be based on flawed testing. The German public prosecutor’s office in Brunswick had started a "preliminary investigation"” into VW employees while American authorities have widened criminal inquiries and VW braced for class actions for billions of pounds in the US as British lawyers also urged UK motorists to sue.

Natalie Bennett, the UK Green Party leader, led calls for authorities to consider corporate manslaughter charges, the paper added.

There Telegraph report said there was no written evidence on Wednesday (24 September) of a specific question or answer naming VW in the parliamentary exchange between the German Greens and the country’s ministry in July. However, the ministry reportedly wrote: “The government shares the view of the European Commission that there is no extensively proven means of preventing defeat devices.”

Oliver Krischer, deputy leader of the Greens, told N24 television: “The government told us in July that it knew about this software which has been used in the US. It’s clear they knew the software was widely in use. The VW emissions scandal is the result of a politics in which environmental and consumer protection plays no role and every trick and means of cheating is accepted with a wink.”

Claims that Merkel’s government should have done more were backed by a forum of German environmental businesses, the Telegraph said.

According to the report, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said in Berlin on Wednesday (23 September) the allegation the government had acquiesced in manipulation was “false and indecent”. The German government has set up a commission of inquiry, headed by Michael Odenwald, a junior transport minister.

Volkswagen is also now facing a class action lawsuit in Italy from a consumer group which found a “huge discrepancy” between advertised and actual fuel consumption on a Golf model, leaving drivers an estimated GBP350 a year out of pocket, the Telegraph said.

As just-auto reported today (24 September), South Korea's environment ministry said it would re-test Volkswagen and Audi’s diesel vehicle fuel-efficiency claims following the test-rigging scandal in the US.