The South Korean government is preparing to lay criminal charges against Nissan Motor Company’s Korean operation for allegedly cheating emissions figures on its Qashqai SUV.
The move is likely to subject the international automotive industry, and the integrity of some emissions figures to further scrutiny.
Nissan denies the allegations.
In an announcement by the South Korean Ministry of Environment in late May, the Qashqai SUV was found to be using a ‘defeat device’ to pass emissions testing. The government moved to ban the sale of the car in the country, and immediately ordered the recall of all 814 models already rolled out of showroom’s since last November. Nissan was also slapped with a ₩340million (A$393,364) fine for the breach.
But now the South Korean government appears to be doubling down on its punishment, with the environment ministry escalating the issue by calling on state prosecutors to conduct a criminal investigation into the matter.
Senior environment ministry official Hong Dong-Kon has told local journalists: “Today, we’re going to file a criminal complaint [against Nissan Korea’s President Takehiko Kikuchi].”
The call for a probe follows an investigation by the South Korean government into 20 diesel-powered cars that began last December
In a statement, Nissan denied fitting the defeat device. "Nissan Korea's priorities are our customers, dealers and working closely and transparently with the Korean government concerning real-world NOx emissions of the Nissan Qashqai.”
"We maintain, as we have throughout the discussions, that we have complied with all existing regulations and did not use an 'unjustified arbitrary setup' or an illegal defeat device in the vehicle.
"This vehicle was certified by the Korean government last year under regulations permitting the importation and sales of vehicles that comply with these emission standards.
"We are now studying the conclusions reached by the (environment ministry) and are currently exploring our options. We will work to return the vehicle to sale as soon as possible, and will be in touch with our valued customers and dealers about next steps."
Volkswagen was also fined heavily by the South Korean government during the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.
The German car maker was forced to pay ₩14.1 billion (A$ 1,6312,415) and recall more than 125,000 diesel-powered vehicles.