Volkswagen has admitted its chief executive was told about the company's illegal emissions crisis more than a year before its admission to the public.
Martin Winterkorn, who resigned over the scandal in September, first received word of the crisis on May 23, 2014, and was present at meetings where it was discussed in July of the following year, Volkswagen said in a statement released late Wednesday.
The issue was made public on September 18, 2015, by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The company subsequently admitted that more than 11 million of its vehicles were fitted with so-called "defeat devices" to circumvent emissions tests.
Since the scandal broke, Volkswagen management has repeatedly claimed that Winterkorn had no prior knowledge of the crisis.
In the statement, Volkswagen argues that there is no evidence to prove that Winterkorn had read the initial email or participated in later discussions related to the crisis.
The issue "did not initially receive special attention at the management level," the company wrote in the statement, which lays out Volkswagen's defence against legal action by a group of shareholders in Braunschweig, Germany.
The company maintains it did not withhold information from shareholders. Before September 18, there "was no indication whatsoever of information that would be relevant for the stock price," the statement said.