The Spanish subsidiary of Volkswagen, Seat, said Thursday some of its vehicles may have been built with diesel engines that were rigged with software to improve the engine's emissions during regulatory testing. The Spanish Ministry of Industry launched a probe Wednesday into whether Seat's cars contained the software. Volkswagen has said that 11 million cars worldwide were built with the software.
"The minister has asked the Volkswagen group to urgently provide all the information necessary to determine the extent of the problem in general and specifically how it might affect Spain," the industry ministry said in a statement, The Local reported. "The minister expressed concern over this sort of situation and how it might affect economic recovery."
The global scandal broke Friday when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claimed Volkswagen had been cheating on emissions testing by deploying software that could sense when the car was being tested and thus lower the car's emissions. When the cars were being driven normally, they emitted up to 40 times the legal pollution limit in the United States.
— El País in English (@elpaisinenglish) September 24, 2015
Seat did not specify the number of vehicles that had the software installed, but told EL PAÍS, the Spanish newspaper, by email that it had "equipped some vehicles" with the engines containing the cheating software. Seat sold 378,586 vehicles in 2014, about 17 percent of them in Spain. Industry experts estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles with the altered engines could be in use.
The subsidiary also said that its cars currently for sale did not contain the manipulative software. “All new vehicles sold by Seat in the European Union and equipped with EU 6 engines comply, without any exceptions, with all legal requirements and environmental regulations,” it told EL PAÍS.
Seat made a profit of 33 million euros the first quarter of 2015, after reporting losses for years, Bloomberg reported in April. Volkwagen's overall profits that quarter exceeded analysts' predictions, jumping by 17 percent. At the time, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said the company was "optimally positioned to master the divergent trends in the global automotive markets."
Winterkorn resigned Wednesday amid pressure over the scandal. "As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines," he said in a statement, adding "Volkswagen needs a fresh start ... I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation."