On Tuesday, the Munich regional court sentenced Rupert Stadler, the former chairman of the board of directors of Audi, a member of the German Volkswagen Group (VW), to a suspended prison sentence and a fine in the largest-scale criminal trial of the VW diesel scandal to date.
Rupert Stadler was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and fined €1.1 million for fraud. The non-final sentence complies with the verbal agreement between the former company manager and the court in April, with the consent of the prosecution, according to which he will receive a relatively light sentence if he confesses.
In the testimony given in May, he admitted that although he learned about the manipulation used in certain types of Audi diesel engines in July 2016 at the latest, he still gave instructions for the distribution of the affected products and did not prevent their sale, thereby committing fraud. His crime affects around 250,000 Audis, as well as 71,000 Volkswagen and 112,000 Porsche cars, for which Audi supplied the engine.
Rupert Stadler is the first executive to be convicted in Germany over the VW diesel scandal. Two of his subordinates were also convicted, who also confessed and received a relatively light sentence. Wolfgan Hatz, the former head of Audi’s engine development department, received a two-year suspended prison sentence and a 400,000-euro fine, and development engineer Giovanni P. received a one-year, nine-month suspended prison sentence and a 50,000-euro fine for their involvement in the production of Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche products – manipulated – in the development of diesel engines.
In 2007, Rupert Stadler was appointed as the head of Audi, which operates an engine factory in Győr. The diesel scandal that broke out at the parent company reached its third year, it was prosecuted in 2018, and it was held in pretrial detention for four months due to the risk of escape. He was fired from Audi in 2019, and his trial began in 2020.
The VW diesel scandal erupted in September 2015, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused the company group of installing software in the exhaust gas cleaning equipment of 482,000 diesel vehicles that detect the measurement conditions. The car thus produces a fraction of the actual nitrogen oxide emissions in the tests, i.e. it cheats on the test. VW admitted the fraud. Of the almost 11 million affected vehicles, 8.5 million were sold in the European Union.
VW is the largest player in the automotive industry, the group includes, in addition to the eponymous Volkswagen and Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Cupra, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda, as well as Ducati’s sports motorcycle and its own brand of commercial vehicles, Scania and MAN trucks are also manufactured by VW.