Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) has announced Porsche chief Matthias Mueller as the company's new chief executive as it tries to steer itself out of the wreckage of a widening scandal over pollution test rigging.

Mueller replaces Martin Winterkorn, who resigned earlier this week over revelations by US environmental authorities that VW had fitted some of its diesel cars with software capable of tricking emissions tests.

The scam that could lead to fines worth more than $18bn in the US alone.

The scale of VW's deception became clear when the company admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars are equipped with so-called "defeat devices" that covertly turn off pollution controls when the car is being driven and back on when tests are being conducted.

Calling the cheating a "moral and policy disaster", the company's supervisory board chief Berthold Huber said on Friday that the group is now looking to Mueller, who "knows the company and its brands", to tackle the crisis.

Board member Bernd Osterloh added that "a small group had caused great damage to Volkswagen".

Mueller, 62, vowed that his "most pressing task will be to restore confidence in the Volkswagen Group - through an unsparing investigation and maximum transparency, but also by drawing the right lessons from the current situation".

"We will overcome this crisis," he said, adding that the carmaker could "emerge stronger from the crisis in the long term" if it learned from its mistakes.

Swiss ban

Swiss authorities said late on Friday that they have temporarily banned the sale of Volkswagen vehicles potentially fitted with the rigging software.

The ban came as authorities from India to Norway announced new probes, while the US environmental regulator said it would test all diesel car models.

"Today we are putting vehicle manufacturers on notice that our testing is going to include additional evaluation and tests designed to look for potential defeat devices," said Christopher Grundler, director of the US Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Mueller, born in Chemnitz in the former Communist East Germany, has been dubbed "the imperturbable" by newspaper Die Welt.

He has also been described as someone who knows how to use his elbows, "but I don't see it as playing foul, rather as a sign of perseverance and mettle", the daily quoted him as saying.

Winterkorn, who once famously said he knew "every screw in our cars", said on resigning that he was "stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen group".

The 68-year-old said he accepted responsibility as chief executive but was "not aware of any wrongdoing".

Source: AFP