MUNICH -- Germany's federal transport authority, the KBA, will force Volkswagen to recall 2.4 million vehicles in the country affected by the automaker's software that can cheat emissions tests.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt today said the KBA had ordered VW to start a mandatory recall of the cars at the start of 2016.
"The KBA will monitor the start of the recall action and its progress," Dobrindt told reporters in Berlin.
The German plan is expected to be a framework for what VW will need to do throughout Europe, where some 8 million diesel vehicles were fitted with software capable of cheating vehicle emissions tests.
A mandatory recall will speed the refitting process, which VW had originally said would take until the end of next year, and give authorities more control.
Germany is taking a hard line against VW in response to the automaker's deliberate efforts to circumvent regulations since 2008.
"It's an unusual measure to be ordering a mandatory recall," said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst with Evercore ISI. "It shows to me that the KBA is losing patience with VW’s slow response on what to do to fix the engines so far. Customers have been left unsettled."
The mandatory recall will be more expensive for VW because the company will need to fix the cars more quickly, Ellinghorst said.
VW has yet to specify exactly how it will fix the cars, though it has said some will require only a software update while others will need new or repaired engine parts.
German daily Bild reported that the KBA rejected a proposal by VW under which owners of the affected diesel cars could voluntarily bring in their cars for fixes.
VW must tell authorities by the end of November exactly how it will fix the cars, and the recall will begin in January. The KBA will test vehicles to ensure the repairs were successful, Dobrindt said. New parts necessary to fix some vehicles will probably be ready by next September, he said.
Throughout Europe, Dobrindt has estimated that Volkswagen will probably need to exchange or rebuild parts for about 3.6 million engines.
A VW spokesman said the company is reviewing the KBA’s decision.
Stefan Bratzel, head of auto research at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, said the KBA is under pressure to show to the public they are in the driver’s seat over the emissions scandal.
"Recalls to fix key safety issues that go to the core of a vehicle’s operation almost always occur voluntarily, with the KBA monitoring. So making this fix -- while the cars are running safely -- a mandatory one shows the political pressure," he said.
The KBA and other European national authorities were due to provide an update to the European Commission in Brussels today on investigations of the emissions scandal in their respective markets.
VW is under pressure to identify those responsible for the wrongdoing. The automaker has been criticized by politicians, investors and consumers for the time it is taking to produce answers.
The pressure on VW extends beyond Germany. Police today raided the Italian headquarters of VW in Verona and its Lamborghini subsidiary in Bologna.
Italian authorities are investigating managers at VW and Lamborghini in Italy for alleged fraud, the chief prosecutor in the northern town of Verona, Mario Giulio Schinaia, said. Executives at both companies are being investigated "for technical reasons" because Lamborghini is controlled by Volkswagen, Schinaia said.
A spokesman for VW subsidiary Audi, which controls Lamborghini, said the raids were part of investigations into the emissions affair. The automaker is cooperating closely with the authorities, the spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
German prosecutors raided VW facilities and private homes last week as part of a criminal investigation.
VW admitted in September to designing software so that 482,000 of its diesel cars in the U.S. would turn on full pollution controls only when undergoing laboratory emissions testing, not on the road.
Since then the deception has been shown to affect about 11 million cars with the EA189 diesel engine worldwide. The vehicles include 5 million at VW brand, 2.1 million at Audi, 1.2 million at Skoda, 700,000 at Seat and 1.8 million light commercial vehicles.
VW's managing director in the UK, Paul Willis, said he did not believe there were more revelations to come in the scandal. "I don't think there is more to come out, that's my personal opinion," Willis told a committee of UK lawmakers today.
When asked about VW's discussions with U.S. regulators over a new emissions-control device on 2016 diesel models and implications elsewhere, Willis said: "I think we need to separate what's happened in the United States."
Christiaan Hetzner, Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report