Things just went from bad to worse for Volkswagen.
More than a year after regulators first discovered software designed to cheat emissions tests on the company's cars, Volkswagen could have a new scandal on its hands after U.S. regulators found similar programming in Audis, the German automaker's luxury brand.
The newly discovered software is designed to sense when the car is under test conditions and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to Reuters. The software worked by monitoring the steering wheel -- if the car was running but the wheels didn't turn, the software activated a program specially designed to fool tests by producing less carbon dioxide than the car would normally produce on the road.
The company stopped using the software in March and reportedly suspended several engineers responsible for it.
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A regulator with the California Air Resources Board discovered the alleged cheating mechanism in an automatic transmission model during lab tests, the report said.
Neither Volkswagen nor government regulators in the U.S. or Germany have acknowledged the presence of the software in Audi models. It came to light after people familiar with the situation leaked details to German newspapers and to The Wall Street Journal, among others.
Neither CARB officials nor Volkswagen responded to requests for comment from The Wall Street Journal, the paper reported on Nov. 6.
The discovery threatens to reignite the controversy -- and loss of trust with consumers -- just as Volkswagen was repairing the damage from the original emissions cheating controversy, which came to light in September 2015. It involved the company's diesel-powered cars, which were modified to mask smog emissions.
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Those cars emitted as much as 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides, pollutants linked to smog that can cause asthma and cancer.
That scandal resulted in the resignation of Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn and the suspension of several top company officials, including design leaders in the company's Audi and Porsche divisions.
It also sent stocks reeling as the company had to recall almost 9 million cars in Europe and pay billions in settlements with U.S. states.
The revelation comes on the heels of more bad news for Volkswagen, which is under criminal investigation in its home country of Germany. Authorities there were initially looking at Winterkorn and Herbert Diess, another top Volkswagen executive, but the probe has widened to include Hans Dieter Potsch, current chairman and former chief financial officer of the Volkswagen Group, The New York Times reported.
Potsch is under fire for allegedly trying to minimize the scandal, and not immediately informing shareholders of the financial risk to the company as is required by law.