Porsche Panamera. Picture: SUPPLIED
Porsche Panamera. Picture: SUPPLIED

Hamburg — German police arrested the head of powertrain development at Volkswagen’s (VW’s) Porsche business and are holding him on remand because he is considered a flight risk, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The arrest of Jörg Kerner was related to ongoing inquiries into emissions manipulation at Volkswagen, more than two years after the German car maker admitted cheating on US exhaust tests, the person said.

A spokesperson for Porsche declined to comment.

Kerner was one of three current or former employees of Porsche that prosecutors were targeting when they searched offices at Porsche and its sister brand Audi earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office said.

Those three, as well as Porsche itself, were suspected of having known that engines developed by Audi had been manipulated, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume told staff in a memo, excerpts of which were seen by Reuters on Friday.

"We reject these allegations and will do our utmost to clear up the matter," Blume said in the memo, which was first reported by the newspaper Bild am Sonntag earlier on Friday.

The arrest occurred on Thursday, he said.

Earlier in 2018, prosecutors widened an investigation of Audi, which developed a 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine that was used in about 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche models found to have been equipped with illicit software.