The authorities have seized computers and documents from French Volkswagen offices. France estimates that nearly 1 million cars carrying faulty emissions software have been sold there in recent years.
Investigators have staged a surprise raid at the French headquaters of German auto giant Volkswagen, a company spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday. Police searched both the main office in the commune of Villers-Cotterets as well as a second office near Paris as part of a wider probe into the massive pollution-test cheating scandal surrounding the company.
Judicial officials said that documents and computer hardware had been seized, as more countries get involved in the investigation. Italian authorities conducted a similar raid last week.
The inquiries follow revelations out of the US in September that some VW cars with diesel engines had been rigged with software to pass emissions tests, despite emitting up to 40 times the legally allowed amounts of nitrogen oxides.
Around 11 million vehicles worldwide are thought to have been affected. France estimates that around 1 million of those – including from subsidies Audi, Skoda, and Seat – containing the offending software have been sold within its borders in recent years.
Sterling reputation shattered
German prosecutors announced on Friday that they had identified fewer than 10 suspects as Volkswagen announced a global dip in sales.
CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down both from his position at VW and his role as chairman of its largest shareholder, Porsche Holding. He was replaced at VW by Matthias Mueller, who used to head the group’s luxury brand, Porsche.
The firm said it would recall a total of 8.5 million diesel cars in Europe alone. On top of the considerable costs of repairing the unsold cars that may carry the software, the loss of sales and the blow to consumer trust, the once highly respected automaker will likely face billions in fines and legal fees.