Ex-Audi CEO Rupert Stadler pleaded guilty at his “dieselgate” fraud trial Tuesday, admitting that he allowed vehicles equipped with emissions cheating software to remain on sale even after learning of the scam.
The admission at the Munich district court comes as part of a plea deal that will see Stadler, who has been on trial since 2020, escape jail time.
Stadler is now the highest-ranking former executive to make a confession in the “dieselgate” scandal that erupted at Audi’s parent company Volkswagen in 2015.
“In the course of addressing the diesel issue” after the scandal became public, Stadler “neglected” to inform business partners that cars with so-called defeat devices were still going on the market, his lawyer Ulrike Thole-Groll told the court in a statement.
In doing so, Stadler was “accepting that vehicles equipped with the illegal software would go on sale,” she said.
Asked by the judge whether the statement was correct, Stadler replied: “Yes.”
German car giant VW — whose subsidiaries include not just Audi but also Porsche, Skoda and Seat — admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software to rig emission levels in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.
The “defeat devices” made the vehicles appear less polluting in lab tests than they were on the road.
Stadler, 60, had until now always denied wrongdoing.
But his defence team announced earlier this month that Stadler had accepted a plea deal that included a confession in exchange for a suspended sentence of up to two years.
Stalder also agreed to make a payment of 1.1 million euros ($1.2 million).
A verdict is expected in June.
Last month Wolfgang Hatz, another former Audi executive who was on trial alongside Stadler, also pleaded guilty, confessing that he and two other colleagues had arranged the installation of emissions-cheating software.
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