A former senior manager at Volkswagen has been sentenced to seven years in prison in the US over the emissions scandal that has cost the company $30bn (£22.5bn).

Oliver Schmidt was sentenced by a Detroit court after it emerged that the car company had installed secret software in nearly 600,000 of its vehicles to enable them to avoid pollution limits.

The vehicles were set up to produce different results during tests than they did during normal road use.

Eight of the company’s executives have been charged over the scam but Schmidt is only the second to be sentenced. He made a plea deal that saw him given the seven-year sentence and fined $400,000.

Schmidt, a German national, was sent to the US in 2015 but failed to disclose the existence of the software, which allowed the vehicles to falsely pass emissions tests. He also misled investigators and destroyed documents, the court heard.

During sentencing, US District Judge Sean Cox told him: “I’m sure, based upon common sense, that you viewed this cover-up as an opportunity to shine — to climb the corporate ladder at VW. Your goal was to impress senior management.”

Schmidt had been a “key conspirator” in the scandal, he added.

After pleading guilty, the former VW executive told the court: “For the disruption of my life, I only have to blame myself… I accept the responsibility for the wrong I committed.”

Lawyers for Schmidt, who led Volkswagen’s engineering and environmental office in Michigan between 2012 and 2015, said he had only become involved in the scam in 2015, when it had already been running for almost a decade. The scheme was first hatched in 2006.

Many of the other Volkswagen employees who have been charged in connection with the case remain in Germany.

The company has already agreed to pay $4.3bn (£3.2bn) in penalties as well as spending billions more on buying back the vehicles involved.

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