It is the third automobile manufacturer to have to answer in front of the French justice of the special effects of diesel engines. Stellantis, Peugeot’s parent company, has announced the indictment of its subsidiary “because of allegations of deception relating to the sale of Euro 5 diesel vehicles which took place in France between 2009 and 2015.” It thus joins Volkswagen and Renault on the dock in the “dieselgate” case.
“Our subsidiaries firmly believe that their emission control systems met all the requirements applicable at the time, and they look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate this,” said Stellantis. A judicial source confirmed to AFP the indictment of the count of “deception leading to a danger to the health of humans or animals”.
A maximum fine of 5 billion euros
The Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) had denounced, in a report sent to justice in 2017, a “global strategy to manufacture fraudulent engines, then to market them”. Some 1.9 million diesel vehicles of the Euro5 generation (standard in force until 2015), “whose engine operates according to fraudulent strategies”, were sold by PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) between September 2009 and September 2015 in France .
In view of the violations found, the DGCCRF assessed the maximum fine incurred by the company at 5 billion euros. An enormous sum, however four times less than the maximum fine of 19.7 billion assessed this time by the DGCCRF for Volkswagen.
A 30 billion bill for Volkswagen
Volkswagen, by whom the scandal of the “dieselgate” arrived, was indicted on May 6 for “deception on the substantial qualities of a goods causing a danger to the health of the man or the animal”. The German manufacturer disputed Wednesday “any prejudice” for French consumers.
At the same time, former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn was indicted for false testimony in Germany before a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the scandal. Prosecuted in several countries including the United States where she pleaded guilty, Volkswagen has already had to spend 30 billion euros in the “dieselgate”. Volkswagen had admitted, in the fall of 2015, to have equipped 11 million of its diesel vehicles with software capable of concealing emissions sometimes exceeding 40 times the authorized standards. Since then, sales of diesel cars have plummeted.
A case already decided in Germany?
In France, the investigations of the DGCCRF had also highlighted “the intentional nature of the fraud” of Volkswagen. The gendarme of Bercy noted, in a report of February 11, 2016, that nearly 950,000 diesel vehicles, equipped with the fraudulent device, had been sold by the German group on French territory.
“For Volkswagen AG, the facts examined by the French courts are included and identical to those already decided in Germany, but the investigating judges told us that, according to them, it was necessary to continue the investigations before deciding definitively on this subject” , the company’s lawyer, Me Nicolas Huc-Morel, told AFP. Volkswagen has already challenged this analysis of the magistrates before the investigating chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal. An appeal awaiting review.
Judicial review and bonds
In addition to being indicted, all these companies are subject to judicial control accompanied by heavy guarantees for the possible payment of damages and fines, up to 20 million euros for Renault, and heavy bank guarantees for compensate for any damage, up to 60 million for Renault and Volkswagen.
“All the elements seem to confirm the infringements committed by the various manufacturers. The owners of injured vehicles do not understand that there is not a trial as quickly as possible “, reacted Wednesday Me François Lafforgue, lawyer of the associations” Ecology without borders “,” Respire “and a hundred owners vehicles.
Other manufacturers soon indicted?
The “dieselgate” scandal is the subject of various legal information in France. Investigations into this scandal have long been slowed down by a legal battle before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Tuesday, Renault was the first to announce that it had been indicted.
Next potential targets on the list: Citroën, then Fiat-Chrysler, also belonging to the Stellantis group. The latter announced their hearing Thursday and “in July” in his press release Wednesday evening. The indictment is a preliminary step to a possible trial in France.