VW has pleaded guilty to three charges as part of a $4.3 billion agreement with the US authorities over the diesel emissions scandal.
The automaker has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and entry of goods by false statement.
VW general counsel Manfred Doess told a court in Detroit the company was “guilty on all three counts“.
Manfred Doess said the criminal acts occurred in both Germany and the United States.
Volkswagen admitted that vehicles were fitted with illegal software which allowed them to cheat emissions tests over a six-year period.
John Neal, an assistant US attorney, told the district court that the scheme “was a well thought-out, planned offensive that went to the top of the organization”.
Under the deal with the DoJ, VW agreed to major reforms and scrutiny by an independent monitor for three years after admitting to installing the secret software in 580,000 US vehicles.
The devices enabled VW’s diesel vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution.
Accepting VW’s guilty plea, district judge Sean Cox said: “This was a very, very serious crime.”
VW has agreed to change the way it operates in the United States and other countries as part of the settlement.
In January 2017, VW agreed to pay $4.3 billion in US civil and criminal fines.
A company spokeswoman said it “deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis”.
Since the emissions scandal broke in September 2015, VW has agreed to pay about $25 billion to address claims from owners, regulators, states and dealers in the US.
VW has come under pressure to pay compensation in other markets too.
However, the fallout from the scandal has not stopped VW from growing its sales. In 2016, VW overtook Toyota as the world’s best-selling car maker.