Nissan denies accusations of vehicle emissions fraud

Japanese carmaker Nissan has denied accusations that it has cheated emissions tests, following claims from South Korea's Environment Ministry that more than 800 UK-built Qashqai models were set to be recalled.

Nissan’s South Korean operations are set to be fined just under £20,000 for allegedly fitting 814 Qashqai cars – which were made in Sunderland – with “cheat devices”, a claim that Nissan has strongly denied.

“Nissan does not manipulate data related to our vehicles. The Nissan Qashqai has been correctly approved under Korean regulations,” a Nissan spokesman said. “Nissan has not and does not employ illegal defeat or cheat devices in any of the cars that we make.

“Furthermore, following stringent testing and using similar standards to the Korean tests, EU authorities have concluded that Nissan vehicles they tested used no illegal defeat device.

“Although the conclusions reached by the Korean authorities are inconsistent with those of other regulators, Nissan will carefully assess and consider appropriate next steps. Nissan is committed to upholding the law. We are continuing to work with the Korean authorities.”

South Korean Environment Ministry director Hong Dong-kon claims that the Qashqai model was the only diesel vehicle from 20 models to fail emissions tests that were established in the aftermath of the Volkswagen scandal. The director claimed that the Qashqai’s emission reduction device failed to operate once engine temperatures reached 35 Celsius – just 30 minutes after the engines were switched on.

Major setbacks

Nissan is the latest in a line of major car manufacturers to be accused of rigging tests over diesel emissions and fuel economy. Volkswagen is still recovering from the consequences of its high-profile case, and has turned to electric vehicle production to move towards a low-carbon future.

French manufacturer Renault saw stocks fall by 20% – costing the company around €5bn in market value – after investigators looked for ‘defeat devices’ in Renault vehicles. French Ministers later assured the public that “no emissions fraud” had taken place.

Last month, Mitsubishi Motor Corporation expressed its “deep apologies” after the company admitted to manipulating data to make 625,000 vehicles appear more fuel-efficient.

Fuel for thought

The accusations from South Korea are in stark contrast to Nissan’s profile in the UK. On the eve of the Queen’s Speech, the Government looks set to roll-out legislative support for carmakers leading the way with autonomous vehicles, which Nissan has an active interest in. The company has already revealed that the Qashqai will be the first Nissan model in Europe equipped with autonomous drive technology.

While Nissan is attempting to pioneer the “decade of disruption” through its innovative vehicle to grid scheme, carmakers looking to embrace the electrification of the sector are doing so against a backdrop of weakened emission policies.

European lawmakers have successfully lobbied to introduce a compromise deal to reduce car emissions that will still allow vehicles to exceed official pollution limits. The behind-the-scenes backing from the UK, France and Germany to keep outmoded car tests for carbon emissions has also hindered the low-carbon movement.

The UK’s lobbying of these policies goes against Government claims that it is “leading the push” for more stringent testing, while a Department for Transport (DfT) investigation revealed that some UK vehicles are still producing up to 12 times the EU maximum limit for road-tested emissions.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie