Volkswagen is telling employees that they can come forward with information about how the company cheated on emissions tests — and won't be fired.
The offer applies to workers covered by collective bargaining agreements and expires on Nov. 30.
An excerpt from the letter from Volkswagen brand manager Herbert Diess was made public by the company on Thursday. Diess said the offer was being made in the interests of "full and swift clarification" of the scandal that has shaken the company.
The letter says Volkswagen won't seek damages or fire employees for what they might reveal. Workers could be transferred to other duties, however. And the company stresses it cannot get anyone off the hook for criminal probes.
Volkswagen is facing fines, expensive recalls and lost sales after U.S. authorities found it had equipped diesel cars with software that turned off emissions controls and pepped up performance when the vehicle was not being tested. Under normal driving conditions, the vehicles exceeded limits for nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that can cause health problems. The company has said there were also "irregularities" in its measurement of emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas scientists say contributes to global warming.
Up to 11 million vehicles worldwide have the software that helped cheat on the U.S. emissions tests.
Volkswagen's step is similar to one taken by German industrial firm Siemens AG as it cleaned up a bribery scandal. A new CEO announced a month-long amnesty explicitly excluding former directors. According to a study by the Institute for Business Ethics, some forty whistleblowers came forward about the practice, extending the scandal's reach into upper management.