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Renault recalls vehicles over failed emissions test

Renault is recalling thousands of new vehicles to make engine tweaks, the government said Tuesday, as the French carmaker grapples with emission levels found to exceed anti-pollution norms in some of its cars.

France's second biggest auto manufacturer -- in which the French state owns nearly 20 percent -- has been under the spotlight since it emerged last week that anti-fraud investigators had raided several of the company's sites, sending stocks plunging.

Amid fears Renault could be caught up in an emissions scandal similar to the one engulfing Germany's Volkswagen, officials announced that no pollution cheating software was found on Renault cars.

However a French government-appointed commission said the company's diesel cars had failed pollution tests.

Renault "has committed to recalling a certain number of vehicles, 15,000 vehicles, to check them and adjust them correctly so that the filtration system works" in all temperatures, Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, whose portfolio includes transport, said on RTL radio.

"New cars must meet the norms," she said, adding that the adjustment could be quickly done. "To correctly adjust an engine takes half a day," she added.

She also said other carmakers found to have exceeded the norms had agreed to appear before the commission, but declined to name them.

The commission, set up in the wake of the VW case, tested vehicles from a total of eight foreign and French brands, finding carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen dioxide emissions (NOx) from Renault cars to be too high, as well as those in some non-French models.

Renault on Monday pledged to draw up a "technical plan" over coming weeks to bring down harmful emissions.

Renault sales director Thierry Koskas insisted the company was not cheating but acknowledged a problem had emerged between test and real conditions on the road.

"I want to restate this very firmly," he said, presenting the group's 2015 sales results. "We are not using any software or other (fraudulent) methods."

"In test conditions, we respect emissions norms," he added.

"But when we are no longer in test conditions, there is indeed a difference between real conditions and control conditions, that is a fact," he said.

Renault had already announced last month that it would spend 50 million euros ($54 million) on emissions reduction after German consumer body Umwelthilfe found what it called "frightening" pollution levels when testing a Renault Espace Diesel model.

Shares in Renault and other car companies fell last week amid fears that the emissions scandal embroiling VW may be spreading sector-wide.

The German giant was forced to admit in September that it had fitted 11 million diesel engines worldwide with devices aimed at cheating emissions tests.

Renault stocks slumped by more than 20 percent during Thursday's trading session after unions reported the raids by anti-fraud investigators, before closing around 10 percent lower.

Its shares were down slightly at the end of the morning Tuesday, slipping 0.59 percent to 73.73 euros. (AFP)