Berlin, Germany - The Dieselgate emissions scandal flared up again on Thursday after the German government accused Audi of cheating emissions tests with its top-end models, the first time the premium carmaker has been accused of such wrongdoing in its home country.
The German Transport Ministry said it has asked Volkswagen's luxury division to recall about 24 000 A7 and A8 models built between 2009 and 2013, about half of which were sold in Germany.
A ministry spokesman said Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller was summoned to the Berlin-based ministry on Thursday, without elaborating. Volkswagen didn't return calls seeking comment.
The ministry said affected Audi models with so-called Euro 5 emission standards emitted about twice the legal limit of nitrogen oxides when the steering wheel was turned more than 15 degrees.
This is also the first time that Audi's top-of-the-line A8 sedan has been implicated in emissions cheating. Up till now Volkswagen has maintained that the emissions-control software found in its rigged EA189 diesel engine does not violate European law.
The 80 000 three-litre vehicles affected by Volkswagen's emissions cheating scandal in the United States included Audi A6, A7 and Q7 models as well as Porsche and Volkswagen brand cars.
The ministry said it has issued a 12 June deadline for Audi to come up with a comprehensive plan to refit the cars.
Late on Thursday Audi issued a recall for the 24 000 affected models, about 14 000 of which are registered in Germany, and said software updates would start in July. The company said it would continue to cooperate with Germany's KBA motor vehicle authority.
When Audi's headquarters were raided by prosecutors on 15 March in connection with the emissions fraud, chief executive Rupert Stadler said investigations into the scandal were far from over, promising to keep at it until the work was done.
A source close to Audi said problems in the interaction between transmission and engine control units are to blame for the emissions overshoot. A proposal for a fix has already been submitted to the KBA, the source said, declining to elaborate.