Audi said in a statement issued after the announcement that it would begin recalling the vehicles starting in July to correct emissions levels of nitrogen oxide that can “exceed the limit by a factor of up to two.”
The Audis affected included software designed to ensure that a urea solution that neutralizes the emissions was administered in high enough doses only in a controlled test-lab environment. But out on the road, the amount of solution administered to the system would be decreased so drivers would not have to fill the tank containing it as frequently.
Audi wanted to minimize consumption of the solution, known as AdBlue, because it feared that the inconvenience and expense of refilling the holding tank would turn off buyers.
It said that it was cooperating fully with the investigation and Germany’s federal motor transport authority. It apologized to customers for “the inconvenience.”
The investigation is particularly troubling for Volkswagen because Audi is a major profit center for the company.
Audi’s luxury cars account for a disproportionate share of Volkswagen’s profits, so any damage to Audi’s image would be particularly serious. Luxury models like the Audi A8 sedan or the Q7 sport utility vehicle accounted for about 15 percent of the vehicles sold by Volkswagen last year but produced a third of its 14.6 billion euro, or $16.4 billion, operating profit.
In addition to admitting that its Volkswagen-brand vehicles illegally evaded American emissions requirements, the company has said that Audi cars sold in the United States had at least three devices that managed the vehicles’ pollution control systems but were not disclosed to regulators as required.
On top of what Volkswagen has already agreed to pay in fines and settlements in the United States, Audi will pay $1.2 billion to settle a consumer fraud lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission involving about 80,000 Audi and Porsche vehicles with diesel motors.
Volkswagen has insisted that no members of its management board were aware of the emissions fraud, which lasted a decade and, according to the company’s plea agreement in the United States, included engineers, quality-control experts, high-ranking managers and internal lawyers.