What is the emissions claim about?
Nissan and Renault entered into a strategic alliance in 1999 (the ‘Alliance’). Together, the Alliance is said to sell more than 1 in 9 vehicles worldwide.
Daimler (Mercedes) has also engaged in broad strategic cooperation with the Alliance since 2010. It has used Renault engines in its A and B Class vehicles. It is similarly facing allegations of using illegal defeat devices.
Nissan and Renault have both come under fire as a result of the increasing scrutiny of vehicle manufacturers in the wake of the dieselgate scandal. In 2016, Renault announced that it intended to recall more than 15,000 vehicles and to modify up 700,000 more to make sure that its engines conformed with emissions standards. Renault is now subject to a French criminal investigation in respect of emissions irregularities.
Meanwhile, in 2017, independent testing carried out by the Market Surveillance Unit of the DVSA found that the emissions of Nissan’s Qashqai 1.2L petrol engine was much higher than that of any other vehicle tested. The results were at their worst when the Qashqai was tested under real world conditions.
The Qashqai is not the only affected model, others may include the Nissan Juke, Nissan Note, Renault Clio and Renault Megane to name a few.
It is estimated that through the Alliance, Nissan and Renault vehicles share 85% of their engines in some way, making it likely that emissions breaches will be common to both Nissan and Renault. An independent report by Transport and Environment found Nissan and Renault to be among the worst performers in respect of both Euro 5 and 6 engines.
Can I claim?
Anybody who bought a Euro 5 or Euro 6 Nissan Renault vehicle manufactured between 2009 and 2019 in England or Wales may be eligible to join the claim. If you bought or leased an affected Nissan or Renault vehicle in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can still join a claim, but it will be handled slightly differently.
How bad are the emissions?
Independent testing data shows Renault and Nissan vehicles exceed regulatory NOx levels by a factor of up to 16 when tested in real world conditions.
Our preliminary estimates suggest that a non-compliant Euro 6 Diesel engine, which exceeds regulatory limit by a factor of 10, would produce an additional 11.58 kg of NOx every 10,000 miles driven. In respect of petrol vehicles an additional 8.6kg is emitted every 10,000 miles.
NOx emissions contribute to adverse lung conditions and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. In addition NOx reacts with other airborne chemicals to create ground level Ozone. Ozone is the third most radiative greenhouse gas, second only to Carbon Dioxide and Methane. Such gases are damaging contributors to global warming and climate change.
You can read more about the health and environmental impacts of NOx here.
The claims that the proposed group will allege are as follows:
- that the vehicles are not of satisfactory quality;
- that Nissan/Renault breached EU law by failing to meet the regulatory limits for NOx emissions; and
- deceit or fraudulent misrepresentation, in that Nissan/Renault made representations to consumers that the vehicles complied with the relevant regulations (when in fact they did not);
- if their vehicles were bought with finance supplied by Nissan Finance or Renault Finance, our clients will claim for the cost of the finance on the basis that an ‘unfair relationship’ arises out of the credit agreement in circumstances in which Nissan/Renault knew that its vehicles did not meet the requirements to be registered on the road, but our clients did not;
- In addition: our clients will claim for redress under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which prohibit certain kinds of behaviour by traders, and can mean that damages are assessed as a percentage of the purchase price of the vehicle).
Before cars are sold in the EU, manufacturers must apply for ‘type approval’ in a member state. This involves a vehicle undergoing a number of tests and approval processes, including to confirm that exhaust emissions are within regulated limits. Once type approval is granted, manufacturers issue a ‘certificate of conformity’ for each car sold within the EU (if you have ever exported a vehicle into or out of the UK you will be familiar with these).
Within the certificate of conformity is a declaration by the manufacturer that each vehicle meets the regulated emissions standards and – implicitly – that the vehicles do not contain ‘defeat devices’, which are banned.
EC Regulation 715/2007 defines ‘defeat device’ at article 2(3)(10) as:
‘any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine speed (RPM), transmission gear, manifold vacuum or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system, that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use.’
Article 5(2) then prohibits the use of defeat devices:
2. The use of defeat devices that reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems shall be prohibited.
Manufacturers can be permitted to use defeat devices in certain, narrow, circumstances, including where they are necessary in order to protect the vehicle from damage, or for safety reasons. A recent opinion from the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU indicated that strategies which reduce the effectiveness of emissions control systems outside of a very narrow ‘thermal window’ should not be permitted, despite manufacturers claiming that such a rule might lead to more frequent and more costly maintenance.
How do manufacturers do it?
Defeat devices are complicated and, by their nature, secretive. We have seen test data which suggests, however, that some manufacturers use the vehicle’s CPU (the computer which controls things including the operating conditions of the engine) to sense the vehicle’s temperature and other conditions in order to determine whether or not the car is being tested.
The test cycle at the time these vehicles were approved for sale was called the ‘NEDC’ or ‘New European Drive Cycle’. It has been widely criticised for failing to represent real-world driving. The cycle takes precisely 1180 seconds to complete, and must be carried out at around 25 degrees Celsius. The test is carried out in a lab, on a ‘rolling road’. All of these requirements mean that it is relatively easy for a vehicle to ‘know’ when it is being tested, and to reduce its emissions accordingly.
Some cars seem only to operate their emissions control systems between (say) 20 and 30 degrees, which means that for the majority of the year in the UK, they do not function at all. Others appear to switch off various emissions control systems after around 1200 seconds (when the NEDC test must have finished).
Why does this matter?
In common with other car manufacturers, Nissan and Renault appear to have chosen the cheaper route to emissions compliance: they could have engineered their way to a solution, and sold vehicles which were suitable for use in our towns and cities, but instead they appear to have chosen to cheat regulations and compromise the environment and our health for profit.
NOx is a pollutant which has been linked to diseases including childhood asthma. Recent reports have also indicated a link between those living in areas with poor air quality and people suffering the most severe Covid-19 symptoms.
NOx emissions from vehicles contribute to harmful environmental issues such as acid rain and smog.
How much compensation will I get?
It is important to remember that there are several strands to the claim. We estimate that each claimant could be entitled to around £5,000 compensation per vehicle for the core deceit claim, if the loss is valued as the amount by which each claimant overpaid for their vehicle.
In addition, claimants who bought their cars on finance will claim further sums.
The alternative basis of the claim is pursuant to the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations which can in some circumstances require consumers to be compensated with a percentage of the purchase price of their vehicle. Depending on the court’s view of the severity of the breach, it could award 25%, 50%, 75% or even 100% of the purchase price.
The amount ultimately recovered will depend on your circumstances and – in our view – there are matters of principle at play here which mean that the claim is worth more than money.
What have Nissan said about the claims?
Click here to see the statement issued by Nissan in response to the claims.