European laws don't make the situation easy for prosecutors because emissions defeat devices are legal under some circumstances.
Volkswagen Group maintains that the software that allows some of its diesel vehicles to produce excess amounts of nitrogen oxide is legal under European law, but French regulators may soon challenge that argument in court. The result could be a ban of the polluting powerplants on the road there. At the same time, the country’s prosecutors are checking whether they could bring a similar case against Renault.
France’s Environment Minister Segolene Royal said that regulators were still investigating the situation, including commissioning an examination of Renault’s engine software. "It's underway and will be published. We'll have the first results in December,” she said about reviewing the code, according to Reuters. "We will be asking the consumer fraud investigators and prosecutors to communicate any findings that will enable us to establish whether it's necessary to withdraw sales authorizations."
European law allows automakers to adjust a vehicle’s emissions if it’s necessary for protecting the engine, according to Reuters. Investigators now need to know whether VW and Renault’s methods are really there for preserving the powerplants.
Allegations about Renault possibly using an emissions defeat device have been swirling for a about a year. A German environmental group first raised the concerns after publishing a report in November 2015 that alleged the Espace minivan with a 1.6-liter diesel produced excess amounts of NOx. Renault vehemently denied the accusations. French authorities began an official investigation into the situation, including seizing computers from several of the company’s locations. However, there was no evidence at the time of wrongdoing.
The situation regarding emissions defeat devices is clearer in the United States. For example, VW owes nearly $15 billion to settle the issues over the software in its four-cylinder diesel. A separate buyback campaign for vehicles with the 3.0-liter V6 is also reportedly imminent and might also be in the billions.