Renault charged with diesel deception by French investigators

Automotive Industry

Source: Automotive News Europe, 2021-06-08

French investigators charged Renault with deceiving on emissions in ongoing fallout from the diesel scandal that erupted when Volkswagen admitted to cheating tests almost six years ago.

Renault must make a €20m ($24m) bail payment and provide a €60m bank guarantee to cover potential damages, fines and compensation for losses, the company said in a statement on 8 June.

Renault denies any wrongdoing.

It said its vehicles "are not equipped with any rigging software for pollution control devices," adding that it "has always complied with French and European regulations."

The charges spring from a judicial investigation opened in early 2017, days after VW settled criminal and civil complaints with the US VW pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of justice.

Renault has said that unlike VW, it has not used illegal devices to activate emissions controls in the lab while allowing for more pollution in real-world driving.

"Renault deceived no one," Gilles Le Borgne, Head of engineering, said on a call with reporters. "What we know from the VW case is not at all the same for Renault. We do not have defeat devices in our cars and never had them."

The accusations that Renault used a device to detect emissions tests is "erroneous and incomprehensible," said Le Borgne, who joined Renault in 2020 after working for rival PSA Peugeot Citroën for 30 years.

The engines referred to in the probe were in vehicles from 2009 to 2011 and 2013 to 2017, though the full scope of the investigation is still being defined, he said.

Le Borgne said that the anti-pollution technology known as the "NOx trap" in use at the time in cars had known limitations, and only worked in an optimal manner at low speeds.

"The limits of these anti-pollution systems were linked to the safety of our customers and to their own technological and chemicophysical limitations," he said.

An official at the Paris Prosecutor’s office confirmed Renault was charged with deceit involving a product that can endanger humans or animals.

In addition to scrutinising Renault, French investigators have been conducting probes of VW, PSA Peugeot Citroën  and Fiat Chrysler. PSA Peugeot Citroën and FCA merged earlier 2021 to form Stellantis.

In France, investigative magistrates can charge companies or individuals when there are "serious and consistent" clues showing likely involvement. They can then decide whether to refer a case to trial but are not involved after that stage.

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