28th Oct 2016


French diesel committee 'did not cover up for Renault'

The French government is being accused of protecting car company Renault in a recent report about toxic emissions, but one of the environmentalist members of the committee behind the document told EUobserver the report “is not hiding something about Renault especially”, just that the report could have been more detailed about all the car companies.

On Monday (23 August), the Financial Times wrote that a government report omitted some crucial details about Renault, a company that is 20-percent owned by the French state.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The report is the result of the work of a commission set up by French environment minister Segolene Royal after the Volkswagen Group (VW) cheating scandal emerged in September 2015.

VW had equipped 11 million diesel cars worldwide with software – defeat devices – that could detect the cars being tested. Once they had left the test labs, the cars would increase their emission of dangerous pollutants.

According to an anonymous source quoted by the FT, one Renault car that was tested may have also adapted the level of emissions because it was sensing that it was being tested. This specific suspicion did not make it into the report.

The final report did say “the committee has not demonstrated the use of illegal defeat devices, but can not rule them out either”, urging authorities to investigate suspicious cases further.

“We met Renault twice,” said Charlotte Lepitre, campaigner for the French environmentalist group France Nature Environnement (FNE) .

She could not confirm the FT claim, but did note that a second meeting between the Royal commission and Renault was “not convincing”.

The first time Renault spoke to the Royal commission, they gave a clear presentation, noted Lepitre. But the company was invited a second time after test results came in that showed, among other things, that the Renault Talisman emitted eight times the EU limit.

“They did not give us any new explanation. I was not satisfied,” said Lepitre, adding that this discontent should have been made clearer in the report.

She said she did not agree with the statement in the final report that French manufacturers were “very collaborative and transparent”. By contrast, the report complained that German carmaker Volkswagen had a "very legalistic approach".

Lepitre noted that the language barrier may have played a role here, with French carmakers being able to explain themselves to their fellow compatriots in the same language.

But all in all, Lepitre said she was “quite satisfied” with what she called a “good report”.

Tough French, by comparison

The French report is the most damning document so far to have come out of a major European government.

Like previous reports by German and UK authorities, it found that diesel cars from many different manufacturers – not just Renault – are much more dirty in real life than during the test. This is because carmakers switch off or turn down the emissions regulation system under certain conditions.

By doing so, carmakers had “largely ignored” the impact this had on air quality, the French report said. But it also blamed years of inaction by national authorities.

“The absence or lack of transparency of surveillance testing and control by public authorities on emissions of vehicles offered for sale in the European Union constitutes incitement to fraud and therefore must be absolutely corrected,” it said.

The French report did not particularly spare Renault, some of whose cars emitted up to 11 times the EU limit. In a table in the report with the result of a selection of seven of the 86 tested cars, it included a Renault car as the worst performer.

In April, the United Kingdom and Germany had published similar reports that also found huge discrepancies between on-road emissions and test results. But these reports were milder in tone.

Both accepted most manufacturers' explanations for the exceeding the limits, without providing a detailed description of the carmakers' reasoning in the report.

EU wants source data

The European Commission wants the underlying data and methodology before it will draw its own conclusion in an assessment.

Before the summer break, something of a communication breakdown between Brussels and Berlin became apparent, as both sides appeared to be waiting for each other.

But on Wednesday (24 August), an EU Commission spokeswoman said in an email that they were still in contact with the UK and Germany "with a view to enabling us to finalise our assessment".

The EU Commission also wants to see the data underpinning the French report.

Published during holiday

While the French report was more explicit in its condemnation of national authorities and carmakers, it was published on a Friday afternoon late July.

“Everyone was on holiday,” said Lepitre, adding that her organisation has therefore not yet had the chance to write a thorough critique of the report.

But the saga is not yet over for Renault. It is still under investigation from the French anti-fraud agency after its offices were raided last January.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's inquiry committee is due to resume its public hearings next week, when former EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen will appear as witness.


One year on: Dieselgate keeps getting bigger

One year ago, it emerged that VW had cheated on emission tests in what came to be called the Dieselgate affair. EUobserver looked at how it happened and what the EU did to stop it.


Dieselgate: Looking under the hood

EUobserver will closely follow the hearings and research done by the EU parliament's inquiry committee, as well as investigate aspects of the diesel emissions scandal not covered by the committee's mandate.

News in Brief

  1. Budget commissioner Georgieva takes up World Bank post
  2. Walloon parliament votes to accept Ceta
  3. Euro deficit to fall below 2% next year, commission says
  4. Migration and security top Germany's EU agenda
  5. EU finance rules need 'neutral' enforcer, Germany says
  6. Northern Ireland court rejects Brexit case
  7. EU tables Atlantic sea bass fishing ban
  8. EU states issue record number of residence permits

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersUN global sustainable development goals, integration, and security on agenda for Nordic Council Session 2016
  2. Taipei EU OfficeTaiwan Seeks to Join Fight against Global Warming
  3. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  4. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  5. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  6. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  7. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  8. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  10. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  11. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  12. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament

Latest News

  1. Belgium green lights unchanged Ceta
  2. Poland rejects EU 'interferences' on rule of law
  3. On-road emissions tests: How EU failed to change to the fast lane
  4. Dutch PM asks opposition's help on Ukraine agreement
  5. Wallonia's heroic stand against Ceta is a stand for democracy
  6. Calais children abandoned at former camp site
  7. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  8. Poland defies EU on rule of law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  2. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  3. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  4. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion
  6. CEDECOpportunities From the Creation of Synergies at Local Level in the Energy Transition
  7. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  8. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  10. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  11. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  12. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement