France accuses 4 car groups of “deception” in the “DieselJet” scandal


With four giant car groups indicted in the Diesel Jet scandal, millions of French car owners could claim damages, but it is still hard to estimate the potential bill.
After accusations from the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2015, Volkswagen admitted to equipping 11 million cars with software capable of making them appear less polluting during lab tests.
After five years of investigation in France, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen groups were charged this week with “deception regarding goods that pose a danger to human or animal health”. An indictment against Fiat Chrysler will be considered in early July.
This paves the way for a possible trial in France, with manufacturers potentially being fined billions, as well as compensating owners of vehicles whose value depreciated after the scandal broke in September 2015.
“In the event of a criminal prosecution, all buyers of new models of these brands can become civil parties and seek compensation,” Raphael Bartolome of consumer advocacy agency UVC-Co Choisier told AFP.
However, Renault, Volkswagen and Stellants, the new parent company of Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat Chrysler, consider that they have done nothing.
camouflaged emissions
A panel of experts appointed in France after the 2015 scandal revealed “paradoxes” in the emissions of cars from several brands.
At the end of 2016, the General Directorate of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Anti-Fraud revealed differences of up to 377 percent between the performance of some Renault diesel models when tested in the laboratory and when used in real conditions.
This includes hundreds of thousands of vehicles in France: more than 950,000 Volkswagen vehicles, 900,000 Renault vehicles and 1.9 million Peugeot and Citroen vehicles were sold between September 2009 and September 2015, according to the department.
“All manufacturers have used pollution control systems that stop working under certain temperature or speed conditions,” a member of the expert committee, Bertrand Olivier Decroux, told the French newspaper Les Echos.
“The difficulties faced by the judiciary are related to proving the intent to defraud during the issuance of certificates” about the level of emissions, the expert added.
For his part, Renault’s engineering director, Gilles LeBourne, said Tuesday that “there have never been any cheating programs in Renault engines.”
“Pollution control systems have been calibrated in order to preserve technology and people’s safety,” the engineer added. He added that the differences in emissions are “neither new nor surprising” and are consistent with the old standard for measuring emissions.
“Deterring penalties”
After being prevalent in Europe during the first decade of the twenty-first century, diesel declined due to the scandal, its market share collapsed in favor of gasoline and then hybrid and electric cars.
The offense of “deception regarding dangerous goods” is punishable by a fine of 750,000 euros. Fines can be increased to 10 percent of the annual turnover “in proportion to the interest derived from the violation.”
Based on the total annual volume of transactions, the Directorate General of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Anti-Fraud estimated the maximum fines at 5 billion euros for BSI and 3.58 billion for Renault.
However, it is expected that the fine will be much less and will be determined “in a manner commensurate with the benefits derived from deception” in accordance with the applicable texts. For Renault, this means that the fine will be 1.68 billion euros, equivalent to 10 percent of the turnover of 900,000 diesel cars, and not 10 percent of the group’s total turnover.
“We believe that there should be deterrent penalties, criminal penalties in the form of fines, or even other penalties, while at the same time compensating the damages caused to the owners of the vehicles,” the lawyer for about 100 of the plaintiffs in the case, Francois Laforge, told France Info radio on Wednesday.
In France, Volkswagen was first asked in April to pay 4,000 euros in compensation to the owner of one of the cars in question, about 15 percent of the purchase price.
The question is which of the other owners, and from which brands, will be able to claim compensation on the basis that their vehicles do not meet the advertised specifications, and how many will be.


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