S Korea sues Volkswagen’s local head over recall plan

Seoul :South Korea said today it was filing a criminal complaint against the head of Volkswagen AG’s Korean office, saying a plan it submitted for recalling emissions-cheating vehicles was legally deficient.

The environment ministry said the suit—filed with the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office—targeted Johannes Thammer, managing director of Audi Volkswagen Korea.

The ministry said the recall plans submitted by Volkswagen were unacceptable and lacked key information— including details of how the problem had occurred and how it would be fixed.

Similar issues were cited by US environmental regulators last week when they turned down Volkswagen’s initial recall plan for emission-cheating vehicles sold in the US market.

The world’s number-two automaker faces legal action in several countries, after it admitted in September to faking US emissions tests on some of its diesel engine vehicles.

In November, South Korea ordered Volkswagen Korea to recall more than 125,000 diesel-powered cars sold in the Korean market and fined the company 14.1 billion won ($12.3 million).

It also demanded detailed recall plans by January 6 that would specify how the emissions of the cars in question would be improved.

A Volkswagen Korea spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, but told AFP that the company would submit “a revised recall plan that supplements the ministry’s requests”.

German brands have led a surge in sales of foreign cars in South Korea in recent years, notably following a free trade deal in 2011 that cut duties on vehicles imported from Europe.

Around 70 per cent of foreign auto sales in South Korea are diesel engine vehicles.