German prosecutors may have discovered a completely new rabbit hole.
Documents discovered during a raid of Audi’s corporate offices in March are raising new questions for German prosecutors as to why the automaker would allegedly export thousands of vehicles to Asia with identical VINs. The documents suggest Audi exported the vehicles to China, Korea, or Japan, according to the German publication Handelsblatt.
A VIN is supposed to be a unique, 17-digit identifier stamped onto every vehicle, and helps track the vehicle over the course of its life. Both European Union and German laws require each vehicle to have a unique VIN that will remain exclusive to that vehicle for at least 30 years.
An Audi spokesperson told the German business journal, “We are not aware of the fact the VIN numbers have been issued more than once.”
Investigators initially raided Audi offices searching for documents related to the Dieselgate scandal that rocked Volkswagen Group back in 2015. In June, a report said the German Transportation Authority accused Audi of cheating diesel emission regulations on 2009 to 2013 A7 and A8 models.
Audi has stumped investigators as to why it would produce vehicles using the same VIN. Handelsblatt says the Chinese market does prize imported Audis. Currently, the German automaker locally produces and assembles vehicles through a joint venture with a Chinese firm.
Regardless if prosecutors are able to discover why Audi would do such a thing, the documents don't look good. Coming on the heels of Dieselgate can only mean investigators will thoroughly look into the automaker for any potential wrongdoing. For now, though, the allegations are based only on paperwork; there's no indication that investigators have found the duplicate-VIN vehicles in the wild.
It’s like having your parents snoop through your bedroom. They think they’ll find out you’re dating or that you took a sip of alcohol at that party last summer. Instead, they find stacks of cash, passports with different names and nationalities, and pay stubs from defense contractors. Just because the evidence points to you being an international arms dealer doesn’t mean you’re actually an international arms dealer. Either way, it’s still not a good look.