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1ST LEAD German police raid Opel offices on suspicion of emissions fraud By Christian Ebner, dpa

Europe
15.10.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - German criminal investigators conducted searches on Monday at two premises belonging to German carmaker Opel, on suspicion that some of the company‘s diesel-powered cars were using cheat software to conceal toxic emissions in standard tests.

The Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) simultaneously announced that it planned to order the company, owned by France‘s PSA, to recall some 100,000 diesel vehicles because of the cheating.

After finding a shutdown device in the exhaust gas cleaning system, which the authorities had classified as illegal, an official recall was "imminent," the KBA said in Berlin.

Opel confirmed that its offices in Ruesselsheim and Kaiserslautern had been raided, but insisted its vehicles were all compliant with the law.

A spokesman for the company - which PSA purchased from General Motors last year - said it was cooperating with the German authorities. It emerged earlier this year that the loss-making carmaker was under investigation for manipulating vehicle emissions.

German newspaper Bild reported on Monday that Opel was suspected of fitting 95,000 cars with illegal software to cheat on emissions tests.

According to the mass circulation newspaper, diesel-powered versions of the Insignia, Zafira and Cascada models from the years 2012 to 2017 are under suspicion.

The German authorities have conducted similar raids on Volkswagen and BMW. The focus is on discrepancies between emissions during tests under standard conditions, and those in normal use on the road. Regulators say those discrepancies were created thanks to emissions-cheating software.

Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen said there was reason to suspect that Opel‘s cars were fitted out in such a way that additional emissions cleansing was switched off at higher engine speeds and across a wide range of outside temperatures.

Opel has defended the technology, saying it was necessary to protect the engines and their components.

The vehicles have been under investigation by the German Motor Vehicle Office (KBA), which is tasked with issuing licences to manufacturers, for some time.

Last year prosecutors dropped an initial investigation, but this new inquiry concerns other vehicles and different allegations, Niesen said.

Opel has offered its customers software updates, but joined other German carmakers in rejecting the hardware changes demanded by the government, saying they were "economically unreasonable and technologically unproven."

"We do not believe that retrofitting will work," PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares said at the recent Paris Motor Show.

The emissions scandal erupted in the United States in September 2015, when the Environmental Protection Agency alleged that Volkswagen had manipulated its engine software to conceal the true scale of toxic emissions.

The scandal has spread to all major German carmakers. Simultaneously, court actions are being brought by environmentalists to force the closure of major roads in certain cities to older diesel-powered vehicles, further making life difficult for carmakers.

 

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