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Report details how Volkswagen's emissions cheating was an open secret within the company

It appears that employees in the engine development department at Volkswagen were well aware of the software being developed and used to cheat on diesel-emissions testing, according to a report in a German newspaper.

The paper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, was citing results of the automaker’s internal investigation, according to Reuters.

And it appears that knowledge of the cheat devices was widespread. Managers and staff members either knew of the plan, or helped develop the devices, according to the report.

Knowledge of the software goes as far back as 2006, the newspaper said, adding that when a whistleblower attempted to alert a manager in another department, he was ignored.

The report says that employees were under pressure from the board to find an inexpensive was to develop clean diesel engines for the U.S. market.

Instead of admitting that the strict U.S. rules could not be met, however, they pushed ahead with the cheating, the newspaper reports.

Volkswagen initially maintained that only a small number of people were aware of the program, and denied any involved by senior managers or the board.

This report, if true, would cast serious doubt on those assertions.

When contacted by Reuters, Volkswagen had no comment on the report, adding that the internal investigation is still ongoing.