Paris-based Renault has confirmed that investigators sent by the French government unexpectedly raided several of its facilities earlier today.
The investigators were allegedly looking for evidence that Renault’s ubiquitous dCi turbodiesel four-cylinder engine is equipped with an illegal electronic defeat device similar to the the one that the Volkswagen Group admitted to using on its TDI mill last September. Investigators searched Renault’s headquarters in Paris and at least two technical centers located on the outskirts of the French capital, and they conducted tests on several diesel-burning engines found on location, but they uncovered no evidence to prove that the car maker is using a defeat device. French newspaper Le Figaro reports computers owned by the company’s top executives were seized for further examination.
The French government — which owns nearly 20 percent of Renault — quietly began investigating the dCi engine last fall when a German NGO named Deutsche Umwelthilfe published a report that claimed the 1.6-liter oil-burner found under the hood of the new Espace people-mover emits between 13 and 25 times the amount of NOx emissions allowed by the Euro 6 regulations and therefore uses a defeat device to pass emissions tests with flying colors. The car maker immediately denied the allegations, and it re-affirmed today that it has never built a car with a defeat device of any kind in its nearly 120-year history.
Renault shares nonetheless plummeted by 20 percent following the announcement. Interestingly, rival PSA Peugeot Citroën saw its shares dip by 8 percent even though it’s not involved with the investigation in any way.
Renault is cooperating with the investigation, which is led by a small task force that was created by the French government shortly after news of the Dieselgate scandal broke. Renault is currently the focus of the investigation because it’s France’s largest car maker in terms of volume and sales, but the task force’s mission statement suggests that Peugeot and Citroën could be probed as well.
The French government hasn’t revealed precisely why it chose to raid Renault’s facilities, and it hasn’t disclosed what its investigators were looking for. Stay tuned; we’ll update this developing story as more information becomes available.