NEW YORK/BERLIN -- New York and other state attorneys general are forming a group to probe Volkswagen AG over the U.S. emissions test scandal, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today.
And in Germany, the government opened an investigation into Volkswagen as Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed the carmaker to come clean.
Amid growing criticism by government and opposition politicians in Berlin, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said he had set up an investigative commission that will visit VW headquarters in Wolfsburg this week.
The German government said on Monday that automakers will be expected to pass on relevant information to the Federal Motor Transport Authority so that it can assess whether emissions data may have been falsified in Germany and other European countries.
In her first comments since the revelations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, Merkel said VW executives must take action.
“Considering the difficulty of the situation, there has to be full transparency and an effort to clarify the whole matter,” Merkel said at a previously scheduled news conference in Berlin today. “I hope the facts will be put on the table as quickly as possible.”
Allegations that VW hoodwinked U.S. regulators prompted a cross-party outcry over the potential damage to Europe’s largest economy and the reputation of German products. The carmaker said today that 11 million vehicles globally were equipped with the diesel engines in question.
“I find what we’re currently seeing at Volkswagen shocking,” Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader for Germany’s Social Democrats in the lower house, told reporters. “The auto industry is the standard bearer for German exports and we can’t allow it to be harmed,” said Oppermann, whose constituency is in VW’s home state of Lower Saxony.
Cars are the backbone of Germany’s export prowess, with autos produced by companies such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW accounting for almost 18 percent of exports last year. Volkswagen, which means “people’s car,” is one of the icons of German industrial might since World War II.
Dobrindt said his ministry’s investigation will seek to find out whether Volkswagen conformed to European and German standards. The investigators will procure documents and interview company executives, he said in a statement.
There are no indications that other carmakers engaged in similar wrongdoing, Dobrindt told reporters.
“The Made in Germany brand and the export might of the German auto industry has been gravely damaged,” Martin Burkert, a Social Democratic lawmaker who sits on the lower house’s transport committee, said in an interview in Berlin. “We need to take political action so that the entire auto industry doesn’t get swept up in this scandal.”
That concern may be overblown, Michael Fuchs, a deputy caucus leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc, said in an interview on Phoenix television.
“German business makes fabulous products,” he said. “Those products are OK and most VW vehicles are OK, too.”
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.