The Volkswagen logo is displayed at Serramonte Volkswagen on November 18, 2016 in Colma, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The Volkswagen logo is displayed at Serramonte Volkswagen on November 18, 2016 in Colma, California.

The controversy about Weil’s speech erupted amid renewed questions about close ties between German politicians and German car makers, and whether they prevented the German government from acting sooner to address the widening emissions scandal.

Critics have also blasted the outcome of last week’s diesel summit, saying that the German government should have insisted on harsher steps to rein in diesel emissions, but was swayed by industry to adopt less onerous measures.

Bild am Sonntag published thumbnail portraits of six German politicians, including Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who have or have had in the past consulting agreements or other jobs with VW, Daimler DAIGn.DE or other bodies associated with the car industry.

They included Daimler’s chief lobbyist Eckart von Klaeden, a conservative politician who worked under Chancellor Angela Merkel in the chancellery until 2013. His abrupt switch to the Mercedes manufacturer prompted an investigation by Berlin prosecutors and new rules on “cooling off” periods.

Thomas Steg, now VW’s top lobbyist, served as spokesman for the government of Lower Saxony for seven years until 2009.

Matthias Wissmann, who served as German transport minister from 1993 to 1998, has served as president of the VDA auto industry lobby since 2007.

Cem Ozdemir, leader of the pro-environment Greens party, said the “conflation of politics and automotive industry” was damaging to Germany’s reputation and posed a “threat to the foundation of our market economy.”

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook Comments