PARIS (Reuters) -- The scandal engulfing Volkswagen, which has admitted cheating diesel vehicle emissions tests in the U.S., spread today as a French minister called for an EU-wide probe and South Korea said it would conduct its own investigation.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said an European Union inquiry is needed into emissions-cheating and the probe should be extended to French automakers. "It has to be done at a European level," he told Europe 1 radio in an interview today. "We are a European market with European rules. It is these that have to be respected. It is these that have been violated in the United States."
"While it is being done on Volkswagen, I think that in order to reassure people, we will need to also do it for the French manufacturers, but I have no reason to think the French manufacturers will have conducted themselves the way VW did," he said.
There have been no suggestions so far that other carmakers have engaged in the same practices as Volkswagen. German rivals BMW and Daimler have said the accusations against VW did not apply to them.
A committee of Volkswagen's supervisory board is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis. The full board is due to meet on Friday to extend CEO Martin Winterkorn's contract until the end of 2018.
Heads are certain to roll at Volkswagen once it becomes clear who at VW was responsible for the falsification of emissions tests, a German politician and VW supervisory board member said today.
"I am sure that there will be personnel consequences in the end, there is no question about it," supervisory board member Olaf Lies told German radio station Deutschlandfunk today. But he said a thorough investigation would first have to identify the person or people who were involved in the issue.
Some analysts suggest Winterkorn, who recently saw off a challenge to his leadership with the ousting of long-time chairman Ferdinand Piech, will have to go. Winterkorn oversees group r&d operations and ran the core Volkswagen brand between 2007 and 2015, including the period when some of its cars were found violating U.S. clean air rules.
"Winterkorn either knew of proceedings in the U.S. or it was not reported to him," Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said. "In the first instance, he must step down immediately. In the second, one needs to ask why such a far-reaching violation was not reported to the top and then things will get tough too."
The Swiss Federal Roads Office today said it is investigating whether the same type of VW diesel cars that were sold in the U.S. were also sold in Switzerland. It said results were due within days. Swiss broadcaster SRF quoted a spokesman for VW in Switzerland as saying that VW autos sold in Europe and thus Switzerland at the time in question met emissions standards.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Friday that Volkswagen used software that deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions and that it could face penalties of up to $18 billion. The EPA said on Monday it would widen its investigation to other automakers.
Media reports say the U.S. Department of Justice has also started a criminal probe into the allegations against Volkswagen, which cover VW and Audi-branded diesel models including the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat.
South Korea today said it would investigate emissions of three VW and Audi diesel cars. The probe will involve 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles, covering VW Jetta and Golf models and the Audi A3 produced in 2014 and 2015.
VW's shares fell to a new three-year low in early trade, extending Monday's 19 percent plunge. At 08:45 GMT, Volkswagen shares were down 6.3 percent at 123.85 euros after touching a low of 123.4 euros. The European auto sector index was down 4 percent, as analysts speculated all carmakers could face more stringent tests from regulators.