German auto giant Volkswagen said today that as many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide were equipped with a particular engine type that could skew emissions data, as the pollution cheating scandal escalates.

The automaker also said it was setting aside €6.5 billion in provisions in the third quarter to cover potential costs resulting from the scandal and it would have to adjust its profit targets for the current year accordingly.

The announcement sent VW shares down a further 20% on the Frankfurt stock exchange today, after they lost 17% yesterday.

Volkswagen Ireland is investigating whether the issue affects this country and whether it may have to recall any cars.

South Korea said it would conduct its own investigation and a French minister called for an EU-wide probe after Volkswagen admitted cheating diesel vehicle emissions tests in the United States.

Europe's biggest automaker could face penalties of up to $18 billion in the United States, as well as class-action lawsuits from buyers and damage to its reputation.

US regulators allege the company misled them for more than a year.

VW, which for several years has been airing US TV commercials lauding its "clean diesel" cars, was challenged by authorities as far back as 2014 over tests showing emissions exceeded California state and US federal limits.

VW attributed the excess emissions to "various technical issues" and "unexpected" real-world conditions.

However, when the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board threatened to withhold certification for the automaker's 2016 diesel models VW in early September revised its explanation.

A committee of Volkswagen's supervisory board is due to meet tonight to discuss the crisis after it brought forward the meeting originally scheduled for tomorrow, with the future of Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn on the line, a German newspaper reported, citing board sources.
              
Senior board members and members of top VW management were meeting at the Braunschweig airport, the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung reported. The paper, citing the board sources, said Mr Winterkorn had lost the support of major shareholders.
              
Volkswagen was not immediately available to comment.

The full board is due to meet on Friday to extend Mr Winterkorn's contract until end-2018.

Meanwhile, the EU today said it was too early to launch a European investigation into whether Volkswagen has cheated in pollution measuring tests.

"We are taking the matter very seriously," European Commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said in an email to AFP, adding that Brussels was in touch with Volkswagen and US authorities.

"Investigations are ongoing within Volkswagen as well as in the US and in Germany.

"Therefore, it is premature to comment on whether any specific immediate surveillance measures are also necessary in Europe and whether vehicles sold by Volkswagen in Europe are also affected," she said.

"We need to get to the bottom of this," she added.