The former head of Volkswagen’s luxury division Audi pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges tied to the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal, becoming the highest-ranking executive convicted over cars that cheated on emissions tests with the help of illegal software.
Rupert Stadler answered “yes” to a statement read in court by his attorney that said Stadler admitted wrongdoing and regret for his failure to keep rigged cars off the market even after the scandal had become public knowledge, the dpa news agency reported.
Stadler entered the plea under an agreement with the judge and prosecutors that provides probation instead of jail time and orders him to pay a 1.1 million euros (£960,000) fine in return for a thorough admission of guilt.
Three lower-ranking managers also have taken plea deals in the 2 1/2-year-long trial in Munich.
That is when the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation under the Clean Air Act after discovering the rigged software.
The software turned on emission controls when the cars were on test stands and turned them off when the cars were on the road.
The cars would pass inspection but emitted many times the permitted level of nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that can harm people’s health.
The scandal cost Volkswagen more than 30 billion US dollars (£24 billion) in fines and settlements and saw two US executives sent to prison.
It pushed the entire auto industry away from reliance on diesel engines, which had been almost half the auto market in Europe, and helped accelerate the push into electric vehicles.
Volkswagen has since become one of the world’s biggest makers of battery-only cars.
Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned in the wake of the 2015 EPA announcement, has been charged by US and German authorities but cannot be extradited to the US German proceedings against him have stalled because he is in poor health.