Germany's transport authority has ordered a mandatory recall of all 2.4 million Volkswagen cars in the country fitted with software that gave them the ability to evade diesel emissions testing, officials said Thursday.
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Volkswagen would have to present replacement software for certain cars that have a 2.0 liter diesel engine this month and begin fitting vehicles with them next year.
"The Federal Motor Transport Authority is of the opinion that the software constitutes an unauthorized defeat device," Dobrindt told reporters in Berlin. "VW is ordered (...) to remove the software from all vehicles and to take appropriate measures to ensure that the emissions rules are fulfilled."
The dpa news agency reported that the Motor Transport Authority, which answers to Dobrindt's ministry, rejected a Volkswagen proposal for a voluntary recall.
Dobrindt refrained from publicly criticizing Volkswagen, saying cooperation with the German automaker was "extraordinarily good."
He indicated that the recall may last through 2016 because vehicles fitted with smaller 1.6 liter diesel engines will require physical adjustments rather than just a software update.
Those hardware changes, which may not be ready before September 2016, will determine the timeline, he said.
The company recently disclosed the existence of further suspect software in 2016 diesel models. Dobrindt said additional tests were under way that would include examining emissions outside the lab.
Asked about German media reports that more than two dozen Volkswagen managers had been suspended by the company amid signs that knowledge of the defeat devices was widespread, Dobrindt said his ministry had "no information about who decided where, when at Volkswagen about the use of such software."
Volkswagen has said that some managers had been suspended, but said the report Wednesday of up to 30 "lacks any basis."
Volkswagen has said around 11 million cars with the software were sold worldwide, 2.8 million of them in Germany. Dobrindt said only 2.4 million Volkswagen diesel cars with the software are still registered in Germany.
Volkswagen faces possible fines after U.S. authorities discovered it had equipped 482,000 cars with software that disabled emissions controls except when the cars were being tested.