EMISSIONS SCANDAL: Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn says he's 'deeply sorry' for breaking the trust of customers following the US Environmental Protection Agency's ruling. Image: AP / Mark Baker
Berlin, Germany - The German government called on the nation's leading car manufacturers on Monday to demonstrate that they have not manipulated their emission tests in the nation following Volkswagen's weekend admission that it had regularly cheated on US air pollution results.
The German government asked the country's car manufacturers to present "reliable information" to the Federal Motor Transport Authority in order to establish whether any manipulation of exhaust tests had taken place, a spokesperson for the environment ministry said.
VW's admission that it had cheated on its US exhaust tests has sent shockwaves across Germany's powerful auto sector with German economics minister Sigmar Gabriel lashing out at VW's action as "the worst case".
He also acknowledged concerns about the damage that VW's admission could cause to the car industry's reputation.
But he insisted that the case was not typical.
Gabriel said: "The term 'Made in Germany' stands worldwide for quality. But I do not think that this will result in lasting and fundamental damage to German industry.
Based in the northern German city of Wolfsburg, VW said on Monday (Sept 21) it had halted sales of its four-cylinder diesel vehicles in the US on Monday after its shares plunged amid the deepening crisis triggered by the group's admission that it had cheated on the US tests.
VW's stock was down 20% at $146 in late afternoon trading on the Frankfurt share market after US environmental protection authorities threatened to impose fines of up to $18bn.
Shares in other German car makers were also hit by the VW scandal with both BMW and Daimler stock falling more than 1%.
A spokesperson for VW, which is also Europe's biggest car maker, said it had stopped sales of current diesel models of the group's VW and Audi brands in the US.
The manufacturer has also decided until further notice against selling used diesel vehicles with four-cylinder engines in the US, the world's second biggest car market.
VW's luxury sports car maker offshoot, Porsche is not affected by the manipulation scandal, the company said.
The crisis over the manipulation of the tests also represents a major setback to VW's hopes of replacing Japan's Toyota as the world's top car maker.
VW chief Martin Winterkorn also issued a personal apology for the scandal at the weekend with the company announcing plans for an external investigation amid concerns about the fallout for Volkswagen's corporate image.
Winterkorn said in a statement: "I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public."
In his comments on Monday, Gabriel also urged the manufacturers to work closely with the US authorities to allow for a full investigation into the scandal.