French emission probes could go beyond Renault as Germany calls for Fiat recall

January 17, 2017

The judicial investigation into diesel emissions test-fixing in France could widen beyond Renault following tests that show other carmakers have exceeded authorised emissions levels. The announcement was made by French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal on Sunday, though when questioned she declined to elaborate on what she meant by 'widening'.  

Meanwhile, the months-long row between Germany and Italy over FCA (Fiat Chrysler) car emissions is escalating. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the European Commission must pile pressure on Fiat Chrysler to take cars that allegedly break emission rules off the market.  

Dobrindt said in Bild am Sonntag: ‘The Italian authorities have known for several months that Fiat, in the opinion of our experts, uses illegal shut-off devices.’  

He added: ‘Fiat has so far refused to participate in the clarification' of the matter and the commission 'must consequently ensure that a recall is organised for the Fiat vehicles.  

Under EU rules, Italy is responsible for tests on Fiat vehicles because the automaker’s regional operations are based in the country. The EU Commission commented in an emailed statement on Friday: ‘We have repeatedly asked Italian authorities to come forward with convincing answers as soon as possible.’ The German transport Ministry attests there is evidence of an illegal device to switch off emissions controls because its research shows they turn off after 22 minutes. The official emissions test lasts 20 minutes.  

It follows confirmation by a source at the Paris prosecutor’s office on Friday that it had launched a judicial probe into whether Renault used software to hide excess harmful emissions in test conditions.  

Royal said on Sunday: ‘A number of anomalies were noted on Renault vehicles. The controls performed far exceeded the permissible standards.  

However, she went further, adding: ‘This is also the case for other carmakers to a different extent. So there could be other investigations.’  

Renault said that its vehicles do not contain software enabling them to cheat emissions tests, and that it respects all laws concerning exhaust emissions.  

Volkswagen is the only carmaker other than Renault to have been referred for criminal investigation in France so far.  

Royal confirmed: ‘I have no reason to think that Renault cheated like Volkswagen.’  

France began randomly testing vehicles for disparities between laboratory tests and real-world emissions following the Volkswagen scandal. The Talisman and Captur were found to fail tests by France's Environment Ministry in July 2016. This led to the establishment of an expert commission by the French Government. In April, French regulators said some cars it tested from carmakers, including Renault, had higher CO2 and NOX emissions in real-world conditions compared to laboratory tests, but no defeat devices were discovered. The other vehicle manufacturers subjected to tests include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, PSA Group, Nissan, Opel and Ford. 

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