While investigating Audi's involvement in the Dieselgate scandal, prosecutors have stumbled onto a stranger mystery. They found some documents suggesting that thousands of Audi cars exported to Korea, Japan and China may have been stamped with identical vehicle identification numbers.
The discovery was reported by the German business journal Handelsblatt. It was made when investigators searched Audi's audit department for documents related to the Dieselgate scandal during a wide-ranging raid in March. It came after the German Transport Ministry accused the company of cheating on emissions testing for 24,000 Audi A7 and A8 diesels. According to the report, Audi's auditors had the documents about duplicate VINs because they were assessing a "risk of discovery." Audi professed ignorance, with a spokesman saying that they are not aware of the fact the VIN numbers have been issued more than once.
Vehicle identification numbers are supposed to be unique to each vehicle, with 17 digits and capital letters that identify that vehicle's DNA — including features such as where a vehicle was built, the model year and engine specifications. They're used to track recalls, ownership histories, registrations and thefts, among other things. Under EU and German laws, VIN numbers are supposed to remain unduplicated for at least 30 years.