Dieselgate: former Audi-boss may get suspended prison sentence

Rupert Stadler, the former top executive of Audi, may receive a suspended prison sentence for his part in late-scale cheat software with the brand’s diesel cars. To qualify, Stadler must admit guilt, says the Munich court.

For the past two and a half years, the 60-year-old Stadler and three co-defendants have been facing charges relating to the manipulation of exhaust emissions from diesel engines. Stadler has always claimed to be innocent. The ex-CEO claims to have been misled by engineers within the company.

From 2008, approximately 11 million cars from Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche were allegedly modified in such a way that they falsely passed emissions tests in the laboratory.

Aware of the facts

Audi, like parent company Volkswagen, was involved in misleading lab measurements of nitrogen emissions from diesel cars, where emissions were OK in tests but too high on the road.

Shortly after it was revealed in 2015 that carmakers in the United States were cheating in this way, according to prosecutors, Stadler would also have known about these practices. Nevertheless, he did not stop producing cars with special cheat software until 2018.

One of the three developers of Audi diesel engines, meanwhile, has emerged as a key witness in the trial. The court plans to end the trial against him. Another suspect has not yet made a confession. Wolfgang Hatz, the also accused chief technology development officer at Porsche, says he is innocent.

Decision in June

The court will make a final decision in June. In considering imposing only a suspended prison sentence, the Munich court also cites the two-and-a-half years the investigation into Stadler took. That long investigation phase would have been very stressful for the accused former top executive.

The start of the criminal trial of deposed former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn has been postponed several times because of the defendant’s health problems.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen has refused a reconciliation proposal from the Belgian consumer organization TestAankoop/TestAchats in the dieselgate scandal.

The jurisdictional procedure will thus be continued, and the case will probably appear before the court in May 2023. Until now, different procedures, claims, and compensations have already cost Volkswagen more than €30 billion.

Nitrogen dioxide emissions, largely produced by diesel vehicles, have been estimated to result in 64 000 premature deaths every year.

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