Stefan Knirsch had held the position for barely 10 months. Picture: Audi AG

Ingolstadt, Germany - Audi's head of technical development has stepped down “with immediate effect” after German media accused him of involvement in parent company Volkswagen's “dieselgate” scandal.

Stefan Knirsch had held the position for barely 10 months, replacing another top engineer who left after being suspended as part of an inquiry into the emissions cheating saga.

Audi said on Monday Knirsch was “leaving in agreement with the supervisory board” but did not elaborate on his reason for quitting.

The unexpected departure comes after Bild am Sonntag newspaper last week reported that an internal investigation by US law firm Jones Day had found that Knirsch knew that Audi's three-litre V6 turbodiesels were equipped with cheating software before the scandal erupted.

He is also reportedly suspected of having made false declarations about his knowledge of the matter.

Audi did not say in its statement who would replace Knirsch and declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

‘Defeat devices’

Volkswagen was plunged into crisis in September 2015 when it admitted to installing “defeat devices” in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

The sophisticated software could detect when the cars were undergoing regulatory tests and lower their emissions accordingly to make them seem less polluting than they were.

Most of the 'dieselgate' cars fall under the Volkswagen brand, but vehicles made by the group's Audi, Skoda and Seat brands were also among those carrying the software. The group, which has announced a mass recall to repair the affected vehicles, has had to set aside billions to cover costs and fines over the scandal.

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