France charges Peugeot with consumer fraud in diesel emissions probe

(Reuters) – Stellantis said on Wednesday a French court has charged its Peugeot unit with consumer fraud in a far-reaching diesel emissions probe, ordering the company to provide 30 million euros ($36 million) in guarantees for potential payouts.

The Judicial Court of Paris has also ordered Citroen and FCA Italy, two other Stellantis units, to appear in court over the coming weeks as part of the same investigation, the company said on Wednesday.

The Peugeot investigation focuses on older diesel vehicles sold in France between 2009 and 2015 and stems from a wider probe French authorities launched in 2017 over alleged emissions test cheating by diesel vehicle manufacturers.

Stellantis in a statement said Peugeot was assessing its defense options in the case.

“The companies firmly believe that their emission control systems met all applicable requirements at the relevant times and continue to do so and look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that,” said Stellantis, which was formed earlier this year after a merger between Fiat Chrysler and the French PSA Group.

Several European carmarkers have come under scrutiny since the Volkswagen “dieselgate” scandal which erupted in 2015 over test cheating in the United States.

A French court on Tuesday charged carmaker Renault with alleged deception and test manipulation of some of its older diesel vehicles.

French prosecutors looking in to Renault and Peugeot said they had found that some of the cars produced on-the-road nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions more than 10 times regulatory limits for some models, according to reports of the investigation from 2019.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it had rigged engine software with “defeat devices” to cheat U.S. diesel tests, a scandal that has since cost the group more than 32 billion euros in fines, refits and legal costs and reverberated across the industry.

($1 = 0.8213 euro)

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; Editing by Matthew Lewis)