Belgian government asks for probe of software updates at Opel

A spokesman for Belgium's Consumer Affairs Minister confirmed Friday that the ministry has asked the government's economic inspectorate to launch an investigation into software updates on Opel cars.

The ministry wants Opel to provide transparency regarding all relevant software changes that affect the emissions of Opel cars, said Leo De Bock, spokesman for Belgian Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Peeters said, confirming to dpa that the ministry had requested the probe.

Among the questions to be answered are: What were the instructions to Opel dealers with respect to modifications to the software? How were these changes expressed in internal documents? Are updates given on customers' accounts? Can customers decide whether they want an update or not?

The investigation would target General Motors Belgium and several Opel distributors.

Peeters would also like to know what instructions Opel Belgium may have received from the company's headquarters in Germany and to what extent consumers were informed, according to broadcaster VRT, which first reported the story about the request for an investigation on Friday.

The move follows a VRT report on Monday that Opel in Belgium had discreetly adapted software on its Zafira vehicles. The software allegedly improved the vehicles' performance, but also increased their nitrogen oxide emissions above levels allowed by European rules, VRT said.

It claimed that Opel dealerships had started changing the software to lower the emissions without telling vehicle owners.

Opel has denied the allegations.

"Opel clearly rejects the claim of VRT News that Opel dealers have been modifying software in the Zafira Tourer 1.6 [litre] diesel which changes the emission behaviour [sic] of these vehicles," the company said, according to the Financial Times. "The mentioned service update ... has nothing to do with changing emission levels."

An emissions scandal at Volkswagen plunged the company into the biggest crisis in its 78-year history.

VW has been forced to launch a global damage control operation after US officials confronted the group last year with evidence showing that it had manipulated exhaust emissions tests.

Last update: Sat, 23/01/2016 - 12:35

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