Fiat Chrysler Denies Claims of Diesel Test Manipulation

Business Times Singapore

November 29, 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has denied a report that it could be fined for manipulating French diesel emissions tests, saying the allegations have no basis and that its vehicles comply with the law. It added in an e-mailed statement that it hasn’t been charged with any offence and is cooperating with French authorities.

French newspaper Le Monde had reported on Monday that the potential fine appears in a report from France’s anti-fraud office; France opened an emissions probe in March, which also includes Peugeot, Renault and Volkswagen (VW).

The French authorities are investigating the car maker for “aggravated fraud,” a charge that can result in a fine of up to 10% of global revenue, or as much as 9.62 billion euros (US$15.4 billion), Le Monde reported Monday and on Oct. 23.

Fiat Chrysler said that it “looks forward to the opportunity to respond to these claims.”

The French anti-fraud office declined comment on the news reports.

Since VW admitted in 2015 to using defeat devices that turned off emissions controls during driving, regulators in Europe and the United States have put diesel models under greater scrutiny. Fiat Chrysler was sued in May by the U.S. Justice Department over claims that its diesel-powered pickups and SUVs were outfitted with illegal software.

In May, the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Italy for “failure to fulfil its obligations” in how it tests Fiat Chrysler vehicles. Under EU rules, Italy is responsible for certifying Fiat cars because its regional operations are based in the country.

The EU asked Italy to respond to concerns that Fiat Chrysler hadn’t sufficiently justified the necessity of a “defeat device” that turns off emissions controls outside of the test cycle. Such devices are banned, but can be exempted if they are required for safety or to protect the engine.

Italy has strongly backed Fiat’s case in Europe. The Italian Transport Ministry’s tests carried out after the VW scandal showed that Fiat used no unauthorized devices on its vehicles. Italian Transportation Minister Graziano Delrio told an Italian newspaper in May that the Fiat case was different from VW’s and that Fiat’s devices were there to protect engines.

The industry’s credibility has been strained by the VW episode. Since the German car maker admitted to rigging its tests, Mitsubishi Motors Corp has acknowledged that it has manipulated fuel-economy tests; Daimler is also checking for possible irregularities in its vehicle certifications.

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