Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler was arrested on Monday, a spokesman for parent company Volkswagen said. Munich prosecutors said that Stadler might seek to suppress evidence in connection with a diesel emissions probe. The prosecutors' office last week widened its emissions cheating probe into Volkswagen's luxury brand Audi to include Stadler among the suspects accused of fraud and false advertising. Almost three years after Volkswagen admitted to falsifying U.S. diesel emissions tests, the Munich public prosecutor's office was probing 20 suspects, and had searched the apartment of Stadler and one other board member.
"We confirm that Mr. Stadler was arrested this morning. The hearing to determine whether he will be remanded is ongoing," the spokesman said, adding that the presumption of innocence applied to Stadler's case.
The probe could trigger a leadership crisis at Audi and its parent Volkswagen where Stadler was in April elevated to the post of head of group sales. Stadler has been under fire ever since Audi admitted to using cheating software in November 2015 - two months after Volkswagen - but has enjoyed backing from members of the Porsche and Piech families who control Volkswagen and Audi. Before becoming Audi CEO in 2007, Stadler was a confidant of, and former assistant to, then-Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, the scion of the group's controlling Piech clan.
Audi, the biggest contributor to Volkswagen's profit, admitted in November 2015 its 3.0 liter V6 diesel engines were fitted with a device deemed illegal in the United States that allowed cars to evade emissions limits. In March, Audi's 20-strong supervisory board recommended that shareholders endorse Stadler as chief executive even as prosecutors raided Audi to investigate who was involved in the use of any illicit software deployed in 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche cars in the United States.
Audi said last month it had discovered emissions-related problems with a further 60,000 cars.