BERLIN: Volkswagen managers are worried about travelling to the United States, a German newspaper reported on Saturday, saying US investigators have confiscated the passport of an employee who is there on a visit.
Citing company sources, the Suddeutsche Zeitung said Volkswagen believes the investigators want to prevent the manager from evading questioning or criminal prosecution linked to the diesel emissions scandal.
A spokesman for VW said: "Volkswagen employees are still traveling to the United States. Everything else is speculation."
Volkswagen is under investigation in the United States and could face penalties of up to $18 billion after admitting it deliberately rigged emissions tests of diesel-powered vehicles.
Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, which is investigating VW, has criticised the carmaker's handling of the scandal.
Citing a person with knowledge of the matter, the paper said it was now unlikely that new VW chief executive Matthias Mueller would travel to the United States in the second half of November as planned.
"We need legal security here before he can fly to the United States," the paper quoted a person from group management as saying.
There is no official plan for Mueller to travel to the United States and VW has so far declined to comment when asked whether such a trip is likely.
Back in Germany, the government said it is subjecting diesel vehicles including those from foreign manufacturers to strict checks.
"We are currently carrying out strict checks on diesel vehicles from other manufacturers including foreign ones," Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told the Bild daily in an interview published on Saturday.
The developing scandal has claimed another victim as Volkswagen's chief designer Walter Maria de Silva will leave.
The company said on Friday that De Silva will retire at the end of November, confirming earlier reports that he would quit.
Volkswagen's statement made no mention of a successor, and said de Silva would remain connected to the company in an advisory capacity.
Italian-born De Silva, 64, had been chief designer at the German company since 2007, with responsibility for all the group's brands which include VW, Audi, Seat and Porsche.