FRANKFURT -- Mitsubishi is being probed by German prosecutors for suspected use of illegal defeat devices installed in diesel engines.
The authorities are looking at Mitsubishi’s 1.6-liter and 2.2-liter 4-cylinder Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel engines and are asking drivers who acquired cars with the engines since 2014 to contact police.
Drivers may have been defrauded because vehicles with defeat devices are bearing the risk of losing the necessary license to use them on the streets, according to prosecutors.
Police and prosecutors on Tuesday raided 10 sites across Germany. Premises have been searched in Frankfurt, Hanover and Regensburg in Germany as part of the probe, the Frankfurt prosecutor's office said.
Denso offices were among the premises raided. Denso said it is cooperating with authorities.
Three of the sites raided belong to Continental. The supplier said it is a cooperating witness in the probe.
A Mitsubishi spokesman in Germany confirmed that it was under investigation but gave no further details. As an importer Mitsubishi Europe was not involved in the development or production of the company's cars, the spokesman told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
Tatsuo Yoshida, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said that a possible recall could involve as many as 400,000 vehicles and cost as much as 30 billion to 40 billion yen ($273 million to $364 million), including legal costs. “This could become a serious issue,” he said.
Tetsuji Inoue, a spokesman for Tokyo-based Mitsubishi, said the company is still gathering information while cooperating with authorities.
Mitsubishi has a relatively small presence in the European market. Its new-car registrations rose 3.4 percent to 138,003 vehicles in the region last year, according to European industry association ACEA. This translates into a market share of 0.9 percent.
Mitsubishi Motors is part of a global automaking alliance with Nissan and Renault, which was thrown into turmoil in November 2018 with the arrest of its then-chairman, Carlos Ghosn, in Japan on allegations of financial wrongdoing. Ghosn, who has denied the charges, was freed on bail after spending a total of almost 130 days in jail before recently fleeing to Lebanon from Japan.
The auto industry has been rattled by allegations that software is being used in diesel engines to cheat on emissions tests. The scandal started almost five years ago when U.S. regulators disclosed they were probing Volkswagen over the issue. Since then, investigations have mushroomed across the globe.
Bloomberg contributed to this report