France launches ‘aggravated fraud’ inquiry into dieselgate

A European car emissions testing centre. [Mike Dotta/Shutterstock]

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into Volkswagn for “aggravated fraud”. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

The Paris prosecutors’ office opened a judicial inquiry into the German car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) on the charge of “aggravated fraud”, the Journal de l’Environnement learned on Tuesday (8 March).

The French General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) opened a preliminary investigation and an administrative inquiry after the discovery of software designed to trick car pollution tests.

This global fraud affects an estimated 940,000 cars in France alone, where three investigating magistrates have been assigned to the inquiry.

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Fraudulent software

Nathalie Homobono, the director of the DGCCRF, announced at the organisation’s annual review on Tuesday that “parts of the software that runs the vehicles were clearly” designed to cheat emissions tests. For her, “this proves the intentional nature of the fraud”.

The DGCCRF investigation will also cover 13 other car-makers, including French manufacturer Renault. “At this stage there is no presumption of fraud on a comparable scale to that practiced by Volkswagen,” Homobono said. “We are still examining the data.”

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Unfortunate choices

Vehicles that exceed the new emissions standards put in place after the tests ordered by the French Ministry of Ecology are not necessarily indicative of fraud, but can be down to unfortunate technological choices.

Renault’s nitrogen oxide trap does “not conform to the standards once the external temperature [falls] below 17°C”, Ségolène Royal said in January this year. This is a serious drawback, as the average temperature in France varies between 9°C and 16°C.

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