Prosecutors in Munich widened an investigation at Audi over the carmaker’s sales in Germany and Europe after accusations that the Volkswagen division cheated on emissions tests in its home market.
Munich prosecutors have been investigating Audi on suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising in the United States where parent Volkswagen’s emissions scandal broke in September 2015.
They have expanded the inquiry to include vehicle sales in the brand’s home region, a spokesman for prosecutors said.
Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt announced on Thursday that German authorities have found emissions-cheating devices on 24,000 Audi vehicles in Europe, including some 14,000 cars in Germany.
The software was discovered on the carmaker’s diesel A7 and A8 sedans with V6 and V8 motors, built between 2009 and 2013, Dobrindt told Germany’s DPA news agency.
“It’s clear that these vehicles cannot remain in their current state and must be recalled,” he said.
DPA said it was the first time that rigged Audis had been found in Germany.
Later on Thursday, Audi recalled the vehicles to update transmission software, which it said was causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to exceed EU limits.
It said late on Thursday that it would continue to fully cooperate with authorities and Germany’s KBA motor vehicle authority, which the carmaker had notified about the latest emissions irregularities.
Prosecutors said the suspicion in the Audi investigation still centered on fraud, adding they have not yet received updated information from the KBA on the situation in Germany.
Their investigation came to a head in March when prosecutors searched Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt in connection with the emissions scandal, as well as a second German plant and subsequently even the law firm that VW had hired to clear up dieselgate that has rocked Volkswagen, which owns Audi as well as Porsche, Seat and Skoda.
Investigators have found that VW used so-called defeat devices in millions of vehicles worldwide, making them appear to comply with emission standards when in actual emissions were much higher.
The carmaker has so far set aside more than 22 billion euros ($24.7 billion) to cover fines and compensation related to the scandal, but experts estimate the final bill could be much higher.
In March, German prosecutors searched several Audi offices suspicion of “fraud and illegal advertising”, related to the cheating scandal.
But that investigation was related to some 80,000 vehicles fitted with Audi 3.0-liter V6 diesel engines sold in the United States between 2009 and 2015, prosecutors said.