UPDATE 3: Renault Says Investigators Did Not Find ‘Defeat Device’ Evidence



Agents from France’s Economy Ministry’s fraud office last week raided the headquarters of automaker Renault, as well as other sites in Guyancourt and Lardy, as part of a probe into heavily polluting diesel vehicles in the European country. Specifically, the agents were said to be looking into “possible engine-rigging to dodge pollution controls,” reported RFI.

Renault stated that investigators found “no evidence of a defeat device equipping Renault vehicles,” Reuters reported.

Renault is now the second automaker to be investigated on a deeper level after Volkswagen admitted to falsifying CO2 emissions data in Europe and implementing a “defeat device” in diesel vehicles worldwide.

The General Confederation of Labour, which represents employees of Renault, distributed a leaflet stating the raids were linked to a diesel-emission investigation. On Thursday, Renault acknowledged the raids at three separate sites by agents from the fraud office.

Shares of Renault SA opened Thursday morning at $92.58, then tumbled and came back. By the middle of the day, shares had sunk to $73.15, before rebounding to $84.52 at 15:45 GMT (down 10.14 percent from morning open) after the automaker stated investigators had found no evidence of a “defeat device.”

Renault released the following statement:

Following public disclosure by the EPA – US Environmental Protection Agency – of the existence of a Defeat Device software used by a leading car manufacturer, an independent technical commission was created by the French Government.

The purpose of this independent technical commission is to verify that French car manufacturers have not installed equivalent devices in their vehicles.

In this regard, the UTAC (French Homologation Authority mandated by the Ministry) is currently testing 100 vehicles in circulation, including 25 Renault vehicles reflecting Renault’s market share in France. At the end of December 2015, 11 vehicles had already been tested, including 4 Renault vehicles enabling the French public authorities to initiate productive discussions with Renault’s engineering team.

The French Agency for Energy and Climate (DGEC), which is, on behalf of the Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, the main contact for the independent technical commission, already considers that the on-going procedure would not reveal the presence of a defeat device on Renault’s vehicles.

This is good news for Renault.

The on-going tests open the way for improvement solutions for future and current Renault vehicles, presented in its Renault Emissions Plan which is aimed at improving the energy performance of our vehicles.

At the same time, the DGCCRF decided to carry out additional on-site and material investigations, in order to definitively confirm the first findings resulting from the analysis of the independent technical commission.

The DGCCRF went to the Headquaters, the Renault Technical Centre in Lardy and the Technocentre in Guyancourt. 

Renault’s teams are fully cooperating with the independent technical commission and the additional investigations decided by the Ministry of Economy.

Following the success of the COP21, Renault intends to accelerate its investment towards industrial solutions aiming at protecting the planet.

The Renault Group is already in the top 3 (1st in 2013, 2nd in 2014) in the improvement programs of the carbon footprint. Over the last 3 years, the Renault Group has reduced by 10% the carbon footprint of its vehicles.

A “defeat device” is at the center of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal in the U.S. Nearly 600,000 vehicles powered by the automaker’s 2- and 3-liter TDI diesel engines have been programmed to game emissions tests.

A German hacker presented at a conference last month evidence that showed Volkswagen intentionally ran its vehicles in a “normal” mode during European NEDC tests. The ECU programming would supposedly underdose AdBlue — the NOx-fighting diesel emissions fluid — during most operational scenarios. It’s that underdosing, he claimed, that’s the cause of the excessive NOx emissions in Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles.

More as it develops.

[Photo credit: By Lowdown (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]