Five years after “dieselgate” emissions cheating revelations rocked the car industry, ex-Audi CEO Rupert Stadler on Wednesday became the first top executive to stand trial in Germany.

Stadler, 57, appeared before the Munich district court to answer charges of fraud, falsifying certifications and false advertising.

He wore a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus as he arrived but then took it off in court.

With him in the dock are former Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz and two Audi engineers, all charged with fraud.

German car giant Volkswagen — whose subsidiaries include Porsche, Audi, Skoda and Seat — admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software to rig emissions in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

No senior executive has been convicted so far in connection with the 'dieselgate' scandal in Germany No senior executive has been convicted so far in connection with the ‘dieselgate’ scandal in Germany Photo: AFP / RONNY HARTMANN

The so-called defeat devices made the vehicles appear less polluting in lab tests than they were in real driving conditions when they spewed out toxic gases way beyond the legal limit.

Not a single senior executive has been convicted over the scam in Germany, although two VW employees have received jail terms in the United States.

Intense media interest in the Stadler case coupled with social distancing requirements led court officials to move proceedings to a larger room in a justice building outside the city centre.

The complex trial is expected to last until December 2022.

Prosecutors opened the proceedings by reading aloud the indictment, which is more than 90 pages long.

If found guilty, the accused face up to 10 years in jail.

Former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler denies accusations that he knew of plans to defeat pollution testing devices Former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler denies accusations that he knew of plans to defeat pollution testing devices Photo: AFP / CHRISTOF STACHE

Volkswagen has always insisted that the diesel trickery was the work of a

Five years after “dieselgate” emissions cheating revelations rocked the car industry, ex-Audi CEO Rupert Stadler on Wednesday becomes the first top executive to stand trial in Germany.

Stadler, 57, faces charges of “fraud, falsifying certifications and false advertising”, according to the indictment that will be read out before the Munich district court.

He will be in the dock alongside former Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz and two Audi engineers, all facing the same charges.

German car giant Volkswagen — whose subsidiaries include Porsche, Audi, Skoda and Seat — admitted in September 2015 that it had installed manipulating software in 11 million diesels worldwide.

The so-called defeat devices made the vehicles appear less polluting in lab tests than they were in real driving conditions, allowing the vehicles to emit toxic gases far beyond the legal limit.

No senior executive has been convicted so far in connection with the 'dieselgate' scandal in Germany No senior executive has been convicted so far in connection with the ‘dieselgate’ scandal in Germany Photo: AFP / RONNY HARTMANN

Not a single senior executive has been convicted over the scam in Germany, although two VW employees have received jail terms in the United States.

Intense media interest in the Stadler case coupled with coronavirus precautions have led court officials to move proceedings to a larger room in a justice building outside the city centre.

The complex trial is expected to last until December 2022.

If found guilty, the accused face up to 10 years in jail.

Former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler denies accusations that he knew of plans to defeat pollution testing devices Former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler denies accusations that he knew of plans to defeat pollution testing devices Photo: AFP / CHRISTOF STACHE

Volkswagen has always insisted that the diesel trickery was the work of a handful of lower-level employees acting without the knowledge of superiors, although prosecutors dispute this.

Stadler had been Audi’s chief executive for 11 years when he was arrested in June 2018.