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