Dieselgate: Renault under fire in France
The emission fraud scandal dieselgate isn’t gone yet. On Tuesday, the French manufacturer Renault has been put under investigation in its home country. Meanwhile, the former boss of the VW Group, initiator of the scandal, has been paying €11 million indemnification to his former employer.
The French ‘national’ manufacturer is accused of installing a software device in its diesel cars to delude emission controls. The engines involved are those of the Euro 5 (2009-2011) and Euro 6b (2013-2017) generations.
Five years already
In 2016, the French office for the repression of fraud (DGCCRF) pointed out in a report that there were differences up to 377% between the emission performance of Renault models at the time of homologation (in the laboratory) and when used in real driving conditions.
Now it has been confirmed that Renault is officially under investigation for “fraud of merchandise that could endanger the health of men or animals”. As a result, Renault has to pay a €20 million caution to pay possible compensations and fines and is forced to give a €60 million bank guarantee to compensate for eventual jurisdiction.
In France, special jurisdictional investigators have the right to put individual persons or entire companies under investigation when they think that there are serious allegations that some rules were bent. They have the right to take things before justice, but in the jurisdictional follow-up, they aren’t involved anymore.
One out of four
The officially announced investigation of Renault is one of four running in France in the wake of dieselgate that could lead to an eventual trial before the court. Apart from Renault, three other manufacturers are prone to be put under investigation: VW, PSA, and FCA (both now under the Stellantis umbrella).
The fact that these investigations have taken so long is due to a legal battle before the Court of Justice of the EU, which finally confirmed that the software used by some manufacturers was, in fact, illegal.
“There is no, and there has never been fraud software used in Renault engines,” insisted Gilles Le Borgne on Tuesday, now heading the engineering department of Renault and coming from PSA.
There are big differences between the measured test cycles and the everyday use of the car. “And that is neither new or surprising,” confirms Le Borgne. “It is inherent to the old NEDC test procedure.”
“The investigation is mentioning a device that can detect certain phases of the homologation tests,” Le Borgne explains. “The functioning limits during everyday use are only set by security or physical/chemical risks.
All criticism about the functioning is completely anachronistic,” Le Borgne insists. “This surveillance software has been integrated into the engines at their development phase, more than 15 years ago.”
The European Court of Justice has nevertheless confirmed that the software “contributes to the prevention of wear or fouling of the engine” (the reasoning in defense of the manufacturers) does not justify its presence whatsoever.
That dieselgate isn’t over yet, Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of the VW Group, ousted weeks after the scandal broke loose, has yet again experienced. He has to pay a compensation fee of €11 million to his former employer because of the “neglection of duties”.
This compensation does not exclude him from a jurisdictional procedure in Germany, starting in September (delayed by the pandemic), taking him and four other top managers of the group before a court.