German prosecutors expand diesel emissions probe at Audi

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German prosecutors have expanded their investigation into suspected manipulation of diesel emissions at auto maker Audi to include cars sold in Germany and Europe.

Prosecutors have widened an investigation at Audi to examine the carmaker's sales in Germany and Europe after the federal government accused it of cheating on emissions tests. 14,000 of those 24,000 cars are registered in Germany. They have expanded the inquiry to include vehicle sales in the brand's home region, a spokesman for prosecutors said.

"Engine speed can be influenced unfavourably by the gearbox software" in the affected cars, which can be made compliant with a software update that takes about 30 minutes, Audi said. Up till now Volkswagen has maintained that the emissions-control software found in its rigged EA189 diesel engine does not violate European law.

The cheating was discovered Wednesday on vehicles of series A8 and A7, large displacement built between 2009 and 2013 and equipped with V6 and V8 engines, according to Alexander Dobrindt.

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"It's clear that these vehicles can not remain in their current state and must be recalled", he said.

The affected models are said to pollute twice over the legal limit for nitrogen oxides (NOx) when the steering wheel is turned beyond 15 degrees. It will continue to cooperate with Germany's KBA motor vehicle authority, Audi said.

In March, prosecutors searched the Audi headquarters in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt on suspicion of "fraud and illegal advertising". At the time, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told reporters that he had "the greatest interest" in resolving the situation and added that Audi was "fully cooperating with the authorities".

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