German auto giant Volkswagen said Thursday it will recall a total of 8.5 million diesel vehicles Europe-wide that are equipped with sophisticated software enabling their engines to cheat pollution tests.
Responding to an order from the German KBA federal transport authority earlier to recall 2.4 million vehicles in Germany alone, VW announced in a statement that around 8.5 million vehicles would be recalled in all 28 of the European Union's member states, starting from January 2016.
For countries outside the EU, it would have to be established in detail exactly which vehicles were affected, the statement added.
"Volkswagen will be pro-active in approaching and informing customers," the carmaker said.
Already from the beginning of October, every VW customer had been able to use the company's website to check whether their vehicle was affected, simply by typing in the car's number.
A similar function was also available on the websites of the company's other brands of Audi, SEAT and Skoda.
"Rectifications of the vehicles will begin from January 2016 and will be free of charge for our customers," VW said.
The solutions could involve both software and hardware measures.
Until the changes could be undertaken, "every vehicle remains technically safe to drive," VW insisted.
Earlier, the German authorities tightened the screws on the embattled carmaker, saying it would oversee the large-scale recall across the country.
"We are going to issue the order" to recall 2.4 million vehicles, a spokesman for the KBA or federal transport authority told AFP.
And to make sure that order is carried out, the KBA would oversee the operation, he added.
VW, the world's biggest carmaker in terms of sales, was plunged into a crisis of global proportions last month, when it was forced to admit that it had fitted 11 million diesel cars worldwide with devices aimed at cheating pollution tests.
The revelations rocked the automobile sector around the world and cost VW's chief executive Martin Winterkorn his job.
In addition to the costs of repairing so many vehicles, the once-respected automaker now faces billions of euros (dollars) in potential fines and legal costs, not to mention the still incalculable fallout in terms of lost sales and customer trust.