May 18, 2016 / 8:47 PM / a year ago

Germany asks Opel for more information in Zafira emissions probe

An Opel logo is pictured on the front of the Astra car during the second media day of the 86th International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

BERLIN (Reuters) - General Motors’ Opel division has admitted that its Zafira model has engine software that switches off exhaust treatment systems under certain circumstances but says this is legal, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said.

A German investigating committee that met Opel officials on Wednesday asked them to provide it with more information to help with their investigations into carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from its cars, Dobrindt said after the meeting.

Opel confirmed during the meeting that the exhaust treatment systems shut down under certain speed and air pressure conditions in order to protect the car engine, Dobrindt said.

“The investigating committee has doubts about whether this practice is completely justified by the protection of the engine,” he told a news conference after the meeting.

The case is distinct from the emissions case involving German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), which concerned the rigging of exhaust emissions tests as opposed to exhaust treatment systems being shut down under certain conditions.

Last month, VW announced a 4.1 billion euro ($4.60 billion) operating loss for 2015 after making huge provisions to cover the cost of clearing up the scandal.

“The accusations concern control of the emissions treatment with the Opel Zafira relating to the revolutions, the air pressure and the speed,” Dobrindt said.

“Opel promised complete cooperation at today’s talks,” he added, saying this would include access to the relevant software. The Commission gave Opel 14 days to provide it with appropriate technical information.

“We also asked whether there were similar measures or elements with the Astra as we discussed with the Zafira,” Dobrindt said, adding that the carmaker had been unable to provide detailed information on the Astra but would do so subsequently.

Opel was summoned to appear before the investigative committee following media reports this month about suspected emissions rigging.

Opel said it was fully cooperating with the checks.

“I reiterate that our engines conform to the law and do not use illegal software,” Opel Chief Executive Officer Karl-Thomas Neumann said.

“We at Opel do not use any illegal software. The German government wants to check this. We will fully support this,” an Opel statement said. An Opel spokesman declined further comment.

Dobrindt said Wednesday’s meeting began with Opel telling the investigators how it interpreted the relevant law.

“We then presented our legal analysis,” he added. “Differences were apparent.”

Reporting by Paul Carrel and Reuters TV; Editing by Victoria Bryan and Adrian Croft

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