Volkswagen emissions scandal: Carmakers fear fallout as Renault admits to fraud raid

Shares across the industry are hit amid concerns that VW scandal could spread

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The Independent Online

Renault has admitted that three of its production sites in France have been raided by anti-fraud investigators, sending shares in carmakers around the world lower amid fears that the Volkswagen emission scandal could spread. 

Shares in Renault plunged as much as 22 per cent after unions revealed that France’s competition and anti-fraud authority, the DGCCRF, had searched the carmaker’s sites at Lardy, Guyancourt and its headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, with computers seized and later handed back. The company confirmed the raids, but said its own tests had shown no signs of “cheat” software. 

Its shares later closed down 10 per cent at €77.75, wiping nearly €3bn (£2.26bn) off its market value as French ministers rushed to reassure investors that defeat-device software had not been found at Renault. However, the French environment minister Ségolène Royal admitted that preliminary results from the tests showed that emissions exceeded limits on diesel vehicles made by Renault and by some foreign carmakers.

The industry has been under scrutiny since September when US regulators first revealed that VW had cheated to make its diesel-driven vehicles appear to create less pollution than they really did. 

The German car giant was thrown into a crisis. Its chief executive Martin Winterkorn was forced to resign and the company set aside €6.7bn to fix up to 11 million cars worldwide, of which 1.2 million are in the UK. 

French authorities began an investigation into the country’s own car industry in September. Just over 75,000 Renaults were bought by drivers in the UK last year but the total number in the country is far higher than that. 

The Japanese carmaker Nissan, which has a 15 per cent stake in Renault and operates a joint venture with the French group, said the raids were “a Renault issue” and was directing inquiries to it. 

In the wake of the VW scandal, Renault said last month that it would invest €50m to bring the emissions of its cars into line with those measured in official test conditions.

Rival Peugeot said in October that it had never used emissions-cheating software, as VW admitted it had been doing. But Peugeot shares fell 5 per cent, BMW 3.35 per cent and VW 3.7 per cent on the news of the raids.

Shares in Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, were down nearly 8 per cent in afternoon trading in New York as it emerged that the Italian-American carmaker is facing a Chicago lawsuit alleging that it tried to pay dealers to inflate sales figures. Fiat said that the claims were “without merit” and it would defend itself vigorously.

Some experts have long predicted that VW would not be the only company to become engulfed in the emissions-rigging scandal.

Nico Muzi, spokesman for campaignersTransport & Environment, said: “If Renault is found to be involved, it would not be a surprise. We have been saying VW was the tip of the iceberg for a long time. 

“This is an industry-wide problem. For a very long time there has been a widening of the gap between the real-world emissions we measured and the ones companies claim in their brochures.”