WirtschaftsWoche exclusive New Dieselgate Accusations

Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler faces fresh allegations of manipulating emissions in some of its cars including the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade, a German business weekly reported, citing a German ministry letter.
Fiat Chrysler's cars and its emissions values could come under closer scrutiny.

Germany’s transport ministry is not letting go of Fiat Chrysler. After finding in May that one vehicle of the Italian-American carmaker showed emissions irregularities, the ministry tested four more cars.

The department is now accusing Fiat Chrysler of equipping the cars, including a Fiat 500X compact crossover and Jeep Renegade SUV, with an “inadmissible emissions controls mechanism,” German business weekly WirtschaftsWoche reported, citing a letter from the ministry.

In response to a query from Handelsblatt Global Edition, the German transport ministry confirmed the report and its contents, providing the two letters it had sent to the European Commission and its counterpart in Italy. It asked the Italian transport ministry to take the appropriate measures to make the cars compliant with the law and the commission to help find a solution. The European system of emission regulations holds the country of origin — so Italy not Germany — responsible for enforcing the rules.

Fiat Chrysler declined to specifically address the ministry’s allegations, but said that the contested cars “comply with the applicable emissions regulations.” The carmaker added that the Italian transport ministry “has already publicly stated that the Fiat 500X complies with the applicable legal limits.”

Shares of the Italian carmaker initially rose more than 1 percent, but traded down 1.4 percent at €6.11, or $6.80, by 3.10 p.m. in Milan. The shares were the biggest decliner in the Italian blue-chip FTSE MIB index, which rose 1.1 percent.

The investigations’ results clearly show that all tested vehicles show a qualitative similar rise in nitrogen oxide emissions. German transport ministry

When Volkswagen admitted last September it had manipulated 11 million diesel cars worldwide its shares dived as much as 40 percent, erasing more than €15 billion off the company’s market value. VW has agreed to a $15.3 billion settlement in the United States and it faces more costs to settle with U.S. and European authorities and consumers.

VW’s manipulated diesel cars complied with emissions regulations during laboratory tests, but on the road special software, a so-called “defeat device”, switched off or reduced emissions cleaning, increasing pollution of nitrogen oxide, a toxic exhaust gas.

French authorities revealed last month that a large proportion of tested diesel cars emitted excess levels of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, with the worst offenders being the Fiat 500, the Renault Talisman, the Renault Captur, the Nissan Qashqai and the Ford Kuga.

The new allegations against Fiat Chrysler stem from a letter the German transport ministry sent to the European Commission at the end of August, according to WirtschaftsWoche, a weekly business magazine and sister publication of Handelsblatt.

The letter was titled: “Irregularities in the emissions cleaning of vehicles from carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.”

The ministry wrote that “evidence of the utilization of an inadmissible emissions controls mechanism has been proven,” according to the letter seen by WirtschaftsWoche. The ministry said tests had established that several cars had a “mechanism” to shut down emissions reflows of nitrogen oxide, a toxic exhaust gas.

The Italian automaker has defended its technology, saying it is intended to protect the engine during peak performance, and not evade emissions controls.

“Germany cannot share the opinion of the Italian transportation authority that the switch-off mechanism can be applied to protect the engine,” the ministry said in its letter to the European Commission.

The German transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, had raised doubts in May about whether Fiat’s fleet complied with emissions limits in Germany after his ministry tested 30 vehicles following Volkswagen’s diesel scandal.

In May, the ministry raised the existence of an “illegal switch-off device” in a Fiat vehicle, the Fiat 500X. The exhaust gas treatment supposedly turns off automatically after 22 minutes, two minutes longer than time typically for a government exhaust check. Fiat rejected the accusations as false at the time.

Following the May findings, the ministry’s Federal Motor Transport Authority agency tested four more Fiat Chrysler vehicles, including another Fiat 500X, a delivery van Fiat Doblo and the SUV Jeep Renegade, WirtschaftsWoche said, citing the letter.

“The investigations’ results clearly show that all tested vehicles show a qualitative similar rise in nitrogen oxide emissions,” the ministry said in the letter, adding that the gas output increased to 9 to 15 times the maximum limit.

 

Christian Schlesiger is a Berlin-based correspondent at WirtschaftsWoche, covering transport, education and research. Gilbert Kreijger, an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin, contributed to this article. To contact the author: [email protected]