Renault recalls 15,000 vehicles while Opel Zafira emissions drop after software update

Renault is to recall more than 15,000 vehicles and modify up 700,000 more to make sure its engines are in line with emissions standards after raids by French investigators at its headquarters. Environment minister Ségolène Royal said the French firm and other carmakers had not been using defeat device software like Volkswagen but that some of its vehicles did have unacceptably high emissions on the road.

The company denied any wrongdoing but accepted there was a difference between its test results and actual pollution which, it said, was caused by its emissions filtering system not working in all temperatures. Ford and Mercedes have also come under scrutiny by French investigators after real-world NOx emissions in some of their diesel cars were found to far exceed lab tests, according to French newspaper Les Echos.

In Belgium official Opel dealers have been discovered modifying anti-pollution software in Zafira diesel cars without informing their customers. The software responsible for the functioning of exhaust after-treatment of Zafira 2014 series cars with a 1.6 diesel engine was being adjusted to have the cars emit three times less NOx than before the software update. Opel said the software update had “nothing to do with changing emission levels”.  

Two Zafira cars, which were called in for servicing for reasons unrelated to air pollution, emitted 416 and 743 milligrams (mg) of NOx per km respectively before the recall, according to Belgian broadcaster VRT, while the EU legal limit is 80 mg. After the software update, expert laboratory and on-road testing found the cars’ emissions were dramatically reduced to 223 mg and 199 mg.

‘Opel needs to come clean on why this software was updated and its effect on the nitrogen oxide emissions,’ said Greg Archer. ‘It is not credible for the company to claim again and again that third-party tests are wrong and provide no valid explanation for why the emissions from their vehicles are so high.

‘We also need to know what the regulators knew about this software upgrade and whether it was approved. Carmakers seem to think they are above the law while regulators see their job as cushioning the industry. Both have forgotten their responsibilities to the public.’

Audi and Seat marques revise CO2 figures

The CO2 emissions and fuel economy figures for 36 Audi and Seat models have been revised in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, an investigation has revealed. found that six Audi A1 variants, four Audi A4 variants, 26 Seat Leon and Seat Ibiza variants had their fuel efficieny ratings changed, as well as some exampes of the Audi Q3. The official CO2 emissions of the Seat Leon X-Perience SE Technology 2.0 TDI Auto increased by 10 grammes of CO2 per km from 129g/km to 139g/km.

Audi and Seat – both Volkswagen-owned marques – said owners of the vehicles affected would not be compensated for the changes, which they described as being part of routine updates. Customers who had already ordered the cars would be offered the chance to change model or cancel their order, while fleet owners would get a ‘financial gesture’ due to the increased tax liability.

Audi and Seat, as well as the Volkswagen group, denied a cover-up over the changes to fuel efficiency figures, which were quietly published in December. A Volkswagen spokesperson said: ‘Conformity of production testing is a regular and ongoing process, and such updates are us doing our business as usual. The changes were made public through the normal channels.’

Greg Archer commented: ‘It is clear Volkswagen with the help of national regulators are trying to cover over their past misdeeds. This collusion must stop.’