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Renault recalls 15,000 vehicles amid scrutiny over emissions

© Loic Venance / AFP | Renault has recalled 15,000 vehicles over a faulty emissions filter and is set to update emissions software on up to 70,000 more.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-19

Renault is recalling more than 15,000 diesel vehicles to fix faulty emission filters, the embattled French carmaker said Tuesday, while saying it would update emissions software on as many as 70,000 of its vehicles.

The news comes amid public and investor scrutiny over Renault’s emissions performance in the wake of the Volkswagen test-rigging scandal, with news last Thursday that investigators had raided its offices over suspicions of emissions fraud wiping billions off its share price in hours.

While the company has denied using the kind of software “defeat devices” that VW employed to cheat regulatory tests, Renault has come under fire for the relatively high emissions of some of its vehicles.

The 15,000-vehicle recall concerns diesel versions of its Captur mini-SUV and was first revealed by France’s environment minister Ségolène Royal earlier Tuesday.

The models in question contain an engine processor fault that disables the cars’ exhaust after-treatment system, designed to filter out nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, said Renault. The fault causes levels of NOx to soar.

The recall began in November in response to problems detected last July but is only now being made public.

Besides VW’s outright cheating, the diesel scandal has heightened awareness of real-world NOx emissions by the broader auto industry far exceeding those measured in flawed European regulatory tests – with Renault often cited by campaigners as among the worst offenders.

German green group DUH said in November that Renault’s popular Espace minivan had released NOx emissions 25 times over EU limits during a Swiss study using driving styles that are more realistic than the EU test cycle.

Renault admits ‘room for improvement’

An official commission established by Royal is currently testing 100 car models from all major automotive brands to compare on-the-road emissions with regulatory test-bench scores. Testing has so far revealed relatively high NOx emissions from Renault models, members of the commission have said.

Renault chief competitive officer Thierry Bolloré acknowledged Tuesday that the carmaker had to make improvements to emissions as he announced the plans for the software patch, which is designed to reduce real-world NOx emissions in its latest generation of diesel cars.

“We agree that our position is not satisfactory,” he told reporters at the company’s headquarters west of Paris, while disputing many of the reported measurements. “We are the first ones to admit that we have room for improvement.”

The full details of the planned software updates will be unveiled in March for vehicles with the latest Euro 6 generation of diesel engines, Bolloré told reporters, with the carmaker beginning to offer voluntary engine checks to owners four months later.

Based on current production levels, the approximate number of vehicles eligible for checks could approach 700,000, Renault said, but the total ultimately affected and brought in to dealerships is bound to be much lower.

No firm estimates have yet been made, the company added. Software tweaks can be “flashed” to a vehicle during a routine oil change or servicing visit, at minimal extra cost.

Bolloré had already announced last month that Renault was stepping up investment to improve its NOx emissions performance.

The carmaker has earmarked 50 million euros ($54 million) to upgrade its current diesels, while accelerating the 1.2 billion euro development of their next generation – dubbed Euro 6D – from five years to three.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-01-19

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