Berlin - Volkswagen shares tumbled more than 20% on Monday, its biggest one-day fall yet, as the automaker plunged into turmoil by accusations from US authorities that it falsified emissions data.
The US Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday Europe's biggest automaker used software for diesel VW and Audi branded cars that deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions and could face up to $18-billion in penalties.
The scandal has emerged just as VW was hoping to move on from a damaging leadership battle, with a supervisory board meeting on Friday due to discuss a new company structure and management line-up.
SA not affected
South African VW/Audi vehicles are not affected, reports Volkswagen South Africa.
VW SA said: “South Africa does not have a legislative emission standard so this issue does not apply locally.
"We meet the CO2 emissions as published in our official specification sheets for all our vehicles.”
Some analysts said Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, who said on Sunday he was "deeply sorry" for the breach of US rules and ordered an external investigation, should quit.
Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said: "This disaster is beyond all expectations."
Winterkorn, who recently saw off a challenge to his authority with the ousting of long-time chairman Ferdinand Piech, ran the VW brand between 2007 and 2015, including the six-year period when some of its models were found violating US clean air rules.
A VW spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
A source close to the company said any decision on emissions control mechanisms would have been taken at the group's Wolfsburg headquarters, and not by regional divisions.
VW overtook Japan's Toyota in the first half of the 2015 to become the world's biggest automaker by sales, but is facing a sharp slowdown in its most profitable market, China.
The US scandal also adds to the challenge it faces in reviving its North American business, which has long lagged its performance elsewhere.
At 0955 GMT, VW shares were down 20.4% at Euro 129.3, after hitting a three-year low of Euros 125.4.
'This is bad stuff'
London-based Arndt Ellinghorst of Evercore ISI said on Monday, predicting management heads would roll: "This is bad stuff. It smells of lack of control, hubris and denial."
The scandal will be discussed at Friday's 20-member supervisory board meeting, a source close to the board said.
Some analysts have long criticised VW's centralised management system, saying it has delayed product launches and hampered its ability to compete in overseas markets.
German rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW said on Monday the accusations made by US authorities against VW did not apply to them.