Berlin (dpa) – German carmaker Volkswagen’s board is to hold a crisis meeting on Wednesday in the wake of a scandal triggered by revelations that it manipulated its emissions tests in the US.
Company officials told dpa on Monday VW’s powerful supervisory board executive is to meet to consider the scandal, which has badly shaken Europe’s biggest carmaker.
Based in the northern German city of Wolfsburg, VW’s weekend admission that it had regularly cheated on US air pollution results led to a plunge in the company’s shares on Monday amid concerns about the impact of the revelations on the group’s corporate image.
The VW executive includes its top officials as well as major shareholders such as the state of Lower Saxony where the company is based.
The scandal also resulted in the German government calling on the nation’s leading carmakers to demonstrate that they have not manipulated their emission tests in the nation.
Berlin asked the country’s car manufacturers to present “reliable information” to the Federal Motor Transport Authority in order to establish whether any manipulation of exhaust tests had taken place, a spokesman for the environment ministry said.
VW’s admission that it had cheated on its US exhaust tests has sent shockwaves across Germany’s powerful auto sector with German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel lashing out at VW’s action as “the worst case.”
He also acknowledged concerns about the damage that VW’s admission could cause to German industry’s reputation.
But he insisted that the case was not typical. “The term Made in Germany stands worldwide for quality,” he said.
“But I do not think that this will result in lasting and fundamental damage to German industry,” he said.
VW said on Monday it had halted sales of its four-cylinder diesel vehicles in the US.
The company’s stock was down 20 per cent at 129.7 euros (146 dollars) in late afternoon trading on the Frankfurt share market after US environmental protection authorities threatened to impose fines of up to 18 billion dollars.
Shares in other German carmakers were also hit by the VW scandal with both BMW and Daimler stock falling more than 1 per cent.
A VW spokesman said it had stopped sales of current diesel models of the group’s VW and Audi brands in the US.
The carmaker has also decided until further notice against selling used diesel vehicles with four-cylinder engines in the US, the world’s second biggest car market.
VW’s luxury sports car maker offshoot, Porsche is not affected by the manipulation scandal, the company said.
The crisis over the manipulation of the tests also represents a major setback to VW’s hopes of replacing Japan’s Toyota as the world’s top carmaker.
VW chief Martin Winterkorn also issued a personal apology for the scandal at the weekend with the company announcing plans for an external investigation.
“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” he said in a statement.
In his comments on Monday, Gabriel also urged the manufacturers to work closely with the US authorities to allow for a full investigation into the scandal.