Prosecutors say German automaker ordered illegal modification of software to cheat on emissions tests
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI
Testimony suggests Volkswagen may have illegally modified software on vehicles for export to South Korea on orders from its head offices in Germany to satisfy local emissions standards after sales were disallowed over failure to meet them.
The fifth criminal division of Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office under chief prosecutor Choi Gi-sik claimed on June 17 to have obtained testimony that Volkswagen’s head office ordered tampering with software on the 1.4 TSI engine of the seventh-generation Golf, a gasoline-powered car sold in South Korea.
A total of 1,567 of the vehicles have been sold in South Korea since March 2015.
Volkswagen vehicles previously failed to meet domestic emissions standards for gasoline-powered vehicles, which conform to those of the US. Sales in South Korea were disallowed after a failing grade from the National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER), which conducts certification testing for emissions. The automaker dragged the process out over the next year, attributing the results to mistaken model settings, unidentified causes, and loss or incomplete linkage of oxygen sensor connectors on the vehicles tested.
The company finally won NIER certification for meeting emissions standards in Mar. 2015 after replacing related software on orders from its German head offices. At issue was its failure to receive separate certification for replacement parts in accordance with the Clean Air Conservation Act.
While questioning a Volkswagen Korea director surnamed Yun on June 13 and 14, prosecutors obtained testimony that all of the actions had been carried out on orders from the head office. Volkswagen has also reportedly deferred payment to the company responsible for the software replacement.
“Arbitrary replacement of emissions-related software can result in durability issues,” explained a source with prosecutors.
“It is difficult to comprehend this kind of behavior from a world-class automaker.”
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
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