— The Robert Bosch company is under the gun by U.S. prosecutors as they investigate who knew what in the Volkswagen emissions scandal that continues to drain VW's bank accounts.
Bosch supplied the automaker with software for the 2-liter diesel vehicles that have caused the recalls of millions of vehicles worldwide. Those vehicles emit nitrogen oxides up to 40 times above legal standards because of "defeat devices," special software used to alter emissions levels.
Prosecutors want to know if Bosch intentionally conspired with VW in the fraud or if Volkswagen bought the software and then altered it without Bosch knowing. Prosecutors are also trying to determine if additional automakers used software from Bosch for the purpose of illegally altering emissions levels.
Officials have questions about a 2006 agreement between Bosch and VW where there was talk of "expanded software" for emissions-related functions. The authorities are also closely following revelations coming to light from consumer lawsuits filed against Volkswagen and Robert Bosch.
The lawsuits include multiple allegations, including that in a 2008 email to Volkswagen, it's clear Bosch not only knew of the illegal software but also wanted VW to give Bosch legal protections. According to court documents, the software supplier asked that “Volkswagen indemnify Bosch for any legal exposure arising from work on the defeat device,” although it's unknown if VW agreed.
Attorneys further accuse Bosch of profiting from Volkswagen's scheme, with one complaint naming 38 Bosch employees and its CEO of playing a part. Lawyers for VW owners say it's impossible that Bosch didn't know the software was being used illegally, an accusation Bosch says is "wild and unfounded."
A separate lawsuit alleges Bosch warned VW in 2007 that using the software would constitute a criminal offense, yet the automaker sold 11 million vehicles equipped with the illegal software for more than seven years. The lawsuit alleges Bosch should have refused to sell the software to VW but chose instead to be a co-conspirator in the crime.
Prosecutors are also looking at legal claims that accuse Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner of meeting with former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn where the men admitted they knew about the illegal software in May 2014.
The case against VW engineer James Liang is also an interest because it revealed a second supplier was involved in the scheme, a supplier believed to be IAV GmbH. Volkswagen owns 50 percent of that company and IAV employees were working with Bosch and VW concerning diesel emissions systems.