Renault - which doesn't sell vehicles in the US - faces allegations that its cars are a pollution hazard, a spokesman for the prosecutors office said by telephone.
The largest automaker in France published an official statement today on the matter, which reaffirmed the fact that it had not employed any "cheating software" or other devices that might have tampered with their emissions control systems.
Renault shares fell sharply on the news, which comes about two months after the government passed to the prosecutor the findings of an investigation by its consumer fraud agency.
In November, French Ministry of Economy fraud watchdogs said their research found enough material to require further investigation into nitrogen oxides emitted by the company's vehicles, and recommended that prosecutors open a case. The prosecutor has instructed three judges to look into the case, saying there's the possibility the carmaker might be guilty of selling "products unsafe to health" were it to be found to have tampered with its engine performance in such a way as to game the testing system.
The investigation marks the first time a French auto maker has faced a criminal probe in the mushrooming emissions scandal. The company insists that its vehicles comply with French and European Union legislation and aren't equipped with software to cheat on emissions.
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On Thursday, U.S. regulators accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of using software on its diesel-powered Jeeps Cherokees and Ram pickups that allowed them to illegally pollute the air, an accusation that could cost the company billions of dollars in fines.
Mr Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, denied the company had intentionally broken the law.
The shockwaves from the Volkswagen emissions scandal are still reverberating around the global auto industry.
The fines are the largest ever paid by a vehicle manufacturer in the US, while the ruling also includes criminal charges against six VW executives who face prison in the U.S.