Audi CEO Rupert Stadler Arrested in Ongoing VW Dieselgate Investigation

Stadler is the highest-ranking executive to be arrested in the years-long saga thus far.

CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

The drama stemming from Volkswagen's disastrous Dieselgate scandal that began in 2015 entered a new chapter in Germany on Monday with the arrest of Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, making him the highest-ranking VW Group employee to be detained in connection with emissions cheating probe thus far.

Stadler was taken into custody “because of concerns he could influence witnesses in an ongoing fraud investigation,” according to CNN Money, and the automaker has confirmed his arrest. However, the Audi CEO isn't necessarily facing a long stint behind bars—Munich prosecutors say he could be released in a matter of days if he cooperates with their years-long investigation into potential fraud by 20 current and former Audi employees.

Stadler’s arrest comes a week after authorities searched his home looking for evidence and just a few days after Germany slammed Volkswagen with a $1.2 billion fine for cheating on emissions tests worldwide. That latest penalty is on top of more than $30 billion that Volkswagen has already paid out in the form of settlements, legal penalties, and buybacks related to the discovery that its diesel engines were rigged to meet emissions standards only when being tested.

"The principle of the presumption of innocence continues to apply to Mr. Stadler," VW spokesperson Nicolai Laude told CNN Money in a statement. Stadler himself has stated that electrics—not diesels—are the future, and seems genuinely committed to carbon-neutral mobility.

Rupert Stadler’s arrest could be another nail in diesel’s coffin as the industry continues its shift toward hybrids and electrics as greener alternatives to traditional gas engines. Diesel will likely be around in commercial vehicles for a while longer, but the technology's time in passenger vehicles might be coming to an end.