France and Italy Launch Deception Inquiries Into Volkswagen

The Volkswagen crisis showed no sign of letting up today as authorities in France and Italy both announced they would launch inquiries into the Volkswagen emissions scandal that has affected 11 million vehicles worldwide after the company admitted to rigging emissions tests earlier this month.

Italy's competition watchdog said it had received several complaints from consumer groups and would investigate whether the German company had engaged in "improper commercial practices," according to The Guardian newspaper.

The investigation relates to cars sold between 2009 and 2015 under the VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda brands. VW has said it will recall more than 650,000 vehicles in the country.

Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor's office told Reuters it was investigating suspicions of "aggravated deception." Those responsible could face prison sentences of five years and fines of 600,000 euros ($670,000) for aggravated deception, the prosecutor's office said.

The carmaker is facing numerous investigations from around the world, lawsuits from disgruntled customers and potentially billions of dollars in fines, after admitting that it had installed software in millions of its vehicles that deliberately lowered emissions in tests conducted by U.S. authorities earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Volkswagen admitted that almost 1.2 million vehicles in the U.K. are affected by the diesel emissions scandal. The British transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has demanded a united European investigation.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Canadian environmental watchdog have also launched investigations into the company, as has the German government, the state-run Automotive Research Association of India, and South Korean officials.

VW could face fines of $18 billiom in the U.S., based on a standard penalty of $37,500 for each of the 482,000 cars fitted with "defeat devices." Shares in VW fell 4.5% on Friday, adding to a 44% plunge since the scandal began.