Local VW executive is detained

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Local VW executive is detained

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office detained an executive of Audi Volkswagen Korea on Friday for the company’s rigged emissions and noise-level tests.

The Seoul Central District Court approved the detention warrant, saying, “The facts constituting the crime have been explained, and the court recognizes the grounds and necessity for the detention.”

This is the first time that prosecutors detained an Audi Volkswagen Korea official over the German automaker’s ongoing emissions rigging scandal. The 52-year-old official, surnamed Yoon, is in charge of the vehicle certification process for the company.

Investigators claim that Yoon had manipulated the cars’ engine control unit (ECU) after receiving e-mail directions from Volkswagen AG, the company’s German headquarters, so that emission levels would appear lower than the actual amount.

The ECU refers to an embedded software system that controls an automobile’s exhaust gas recirculation, and modifying this requires a separate certification from the Korean government, which the carmaker failed to achieve.

After the National Institute of Environmental Research told the company in March 2014 that it failed a test and wasn’t allowed to sell the cars, Audi Volkswagen Korea notified its headquarters, and Volkswagen AG told the local branch in late June 2014 to adjust the ECU and retake the test.

So far, prosecutors found 1,567 units of the seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf, equipped with a 1.4-liter (0.4-gallon) TSI gasoline engine, have been sold in the local market since March 2015.

According to the prosecution, the practice of fabricating test results started back in August 2010 and lasted until February last year, when Yoon was involved in the submission of 40 rigged emissions and noise-level results as well as 90 fuel efficiency tests necessary to import cars.

Yoon is allegedly involved not only in manipulating the Golf model’s ECU, fabricating test results and also swapping components of other models without certification. Prosecutors suspect that as many as 59,000 such vehicles including 29 different models were imported since July 2013, according to Korean media outlet YTN.

These cars were equipped with parts that were different from those submitted initially.

Under Korean law, changing the main components of automobiles requires certification regardless of whether they were previously certified.

BY KIM YOUNG-MIN [lee.dongeun@joongang.co.kr]

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