A US-based Volkswagen executive has been jailed over the company’s emissions scandal.

VW’s Oliver Schmidt has been sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $US400,000 for his role in the diesel emissions scandal.

It comes after the company admitted to charges of conspiring to mislead US regulators and violate clean-air laws, by installing software in its cars that allowed them to cheat on emissions tests.

Mr Schmidt was initially charged with 11 felony counts, which carried a maximum penalty of up to 169 years in prison.

In a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop most of the charges in exchange for Mr Schmidt agreeing to be deported at the end of his prison sentence.

Mr Schmidt oversaw VW’s environmental and engineering (which included emissions control) office in Auburn Hills, Michigan, until February 2015, at which time he returned to Germany and was told about the existence of the software.

Later that year, he conspired with other executives to avoid disclosing the “intentional cheating” by the automaker in order to gain regulatory approval for its model 2016 VW 2 litre diesels.

“It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States,” US district judge Sean Cox of Detroit told Schmidt in court.

“You saw this as your opportunity to shine ... and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”

Mr Schmidt broke down in court while reading a statement on his family’s sacrifices since his arrest in January.

“I made bad decisions and for that I am sorry,” he said.

US Department of Justice trial attorney Benjamin Singer said Mr Schmidt was “part of the decision making process” to hide the scheme to fake vehicle emissions results.

He said he had opportunities to tell regulators the truth.

“Every time he chose to lie,” Mr Singer said.

US prosecutors have charged eight current and former Volkswagen executives.

While some expected the scandal to bury the company, Volkswagen has rebounded over the past year and is now on track for record deliveries of vehicles for the company this year.