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Renault chiefs implicated in decades-long emissions fraud: probe
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) March 15, 2017

Trump to undo Obama auto emission rules: official
Washington (AFP) March 15, 2017 - President Donald Trump is set to announce steps Wednesday to halt his predecessor Barack Obama's future vehicle emissions limits for manufacturers, a senior administration official said.

During a visit to auto manufacturing hub Detroit, Trump is set to announce that the Environmental Protection Agency's objectives for 2022-2025 will be put on hold during a new review period.

"We are going to hold back the EPA determination" that automakers can meet the Obama administration's strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, the official said.

The Trump White House says the rules were issued in an 11th hour move by the Obama administration without taking into consideration the realities of the market, the constraints of various actors in the field and consumer expectations.

"I don't think the public really had an opportunity to weigh in," the official said.

In a February letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, US auto manufacturers had asked the new president to suspend the Obama administration's restrictions, saying they could threaten employment.

Trump is set to meet with auto industry leaders and union representatives in Detroit.

"Will be going to Detroit, Michigan (love), today for a big meeting on bringing back car production to State & U.S. Already happening!" he wrote in a tweet hours before the meetings.

Since his January 20 inauguration, Trump has repeatedly indicated he wants to remove a number of federal environmental regulations he considers futile, saying they are hurting job creation in the United States.

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, was one of the EPA's fiercest opponents prior to being named by Trump to head the agency.

Last week, Pruitt sparked outrage when he went against scientific consensus in claiming that increasing greenhouse gas emissions were not a determining factor in climate change.

Renault has cheated for more than 25 years on pollution tests for diesel and petrol engines with the knowledge of top management, according to a report by French fraud investigators obtained Wednesday by AFP.

"The entire chain of management" up to the French car maker's chief executive Carlos Ghosn was implicated in the "fraudulent strategies", said the report, which led prosecutors to open a probe into Renault in January.

The car maker categorically denied the accusations.

"Renault doesn't cheat," Thierry Bollore, the French company's second-in-command told AFP by telephone, saying all its cars complied with legal standards.

The report said there was no evidence of Ghosn having charged anybody else with approving the company's emissions control decisions, which therefore ultimately came under "his responsibility".

"Many vehicles" were fitted with the device which allowed cars under testing to appear cleaner than they were on the road.

According to the document seen, there was a difference of up to 377 percent between the test levels of emissions performance of some of these cars and the on-road levels.

- Renault shares plunge -

Police suspect the automobile maker of putting in place the strategies "with the objective of creating false results for antipollution tests", and so to be seen to be complying with European regulations.

The police enquiry is concentrating on the Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel engines which were approved in 2009.

Renault shares plunged on the Paris stock exchange, closing 3.7 percent lower on a fairly stable market, after the Liberation daily first revealed the existence of the report earlier Wednesday.

The document concentrates on recent car models, but the fraud investigators -- helped by statements by a former Renault employee -- estimate that questionable policies had been in place since 1990.

Several Renault models were fitted with electronic devices which detected test conditions and then triggered a temporary reduction in harmful emissions for long enough to fool the testing equipment, the former employee claimed.

The first generation Renault Clio, which came out in 1990, is believed to be one of the models involved.

- 'Dieselgate'

The alleged fraudulent practice recalls the "dieselgate" scandal involving Germany's Volkswagen which admitted in late 2015 to installing so-called "defeat devices" into 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, designed to reduce emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides while the engines were undergoing regulatory tests.

The German automaker last week pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States that it committed fraud by installing the devices and paid $4.3 billion in civil fines.

The guilty plea and fines were in addition to $17.5 billion that the company had already agreed to pay in settlements with car owners, dealers and for the environmental cleanup.

The CGT trade union confederation said it feared Renault's image could be "seriously tarnished by these revelation" and called on the company's management to shed light on the matter.

Lawyer Frederik-Karel Canoy said the serious allegations require a swift judicial response and compensation for civil parties, calling for owners of any Renault cars found to have been fitted with the emissions-cheating device to be fully compensated.

France Nature Environnement, which is also interested in a civil case, said the emissions were recognised as cancerous and "directly endanger the health of citizens."

Earlier Wednesday, state prosecutors in southern Germany said they had searched offices belonging to carmaker Audi over parent company Volkswagen's emissions cheating scandal.

Investigators from Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Lower Saxony states searched "sites belonging to Audi AG and seven other locations" on suspicion of "fraud and illegal advertising", Munich prosecutors said in a statement.




California gives green light to self-driving car tests
San Francisco (AFP) March 12, 2017
The US state of California is easing its rules for autonomous car testing, by allowing testing of vehicles in which there is no human driver. The new rules have yet to be submitted for public consultation, with a final version expected by the end of the year, according to its Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) . "These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to inclu ... read more

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