By Nick Kostov 

PARIS -- Peugeot and Citroën have become the latest auto makers to face preliminary charges in France on suspicion of emissions fraud, extending the fallout from a yearslong scandal that engulfed the auto industry after Volkswagen AG admitted to cheating in pollution tests.

Stellantis NV, the auto giant that owns the French brands, said the judicial court of Paris had ordered both car makers to pay bail and provide bank guarantees to cover potential damages. The probe relates to the sale of diesel vehicles in France between 2009 and 2015.

Stellantis said another of its subsidiaries, Fiat Chrysler, had been summoned to appear before a court in Paris in the coming weeks as part of the same investigation.

All three auto makers "firmly believe that their emission control systems met all applicable requirements at the relevant times and continue to do so," Stellantis said.

On Thursday, a French judicial official confirmed the filing of preliminary charges against Peugeot, which allege the company engaged in fraudulent practices that made its diesel-powered vehicles "dangerous to human and animal health." The official didn't immediately respond to a request for comment later in the day on Citroën.

After years of investigations and fines, the latest charges show that the emissions-cheating scandal continues to ripple across the industry. Earlier this week, French prosecutors filed similar charges against Renault and VW. Both auto makers denied wrongdoing.

Bringing preliminary charges in the French judicial system is a pivotal step that means prosecutors have enough evidence to deepen an investigation; a judge can then either order the company to stand trial or dismiss the charges.

The step also provides the defense with access to the case file, which Stellantis said would give its subsidiaries the opportunity to defend themselves.

France's antifraud authority began probing a number of car makers in 2016 after Volkswagen admitted using defeat devices to dupe laboratory emissions tests in the U.S. the year before.

At the time, officers from the antifraud office, known by its acronym DGCCRF, raided four sites belonging to PSA Group, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroën at the time, as well as one in Montbéliard, the historic home of the brand in eastern France. Renault sites were also raided.

Stellantis, which was formed earlier this year after a merger between Fiat Chrysler and the Peugeot-owner PSA Group, said it would cooperate fully with the probe to resolve the matter expeditiously.

Peugeot has been ordered to pay a bail of EUR10 million, equivalent to $12 million, and provide a bank guarantee of EUR30 million to cover potential damages. Citroën has to pay a bail of EUR8 million and a bank guarantee of EUR25 million.

Last fall, VW wrapped up a yearslong compliance-monitoring program required by U.S. regulators. The German car maker has lately been making a push into electric vehicles.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 10, 2021 14:08 ET (18:08 GMT)

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