FCA accused by Germany of using emissions cheat

The Jeep Renegade has been implicated in a emissions-cheat dispute between Germany and Italy.
UPDATED: 9/1/16 - 10:35 am ET - adds FCA comment

BERLIN -- The German government has accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of using a "cheat" device to switch off exhaust treatment systems.

In letters sent to the European Commission and the Italian Transport Ministry on Wednesday and seen by Reuters, Berlin said Germany found unusual increases in the emissions of four Fiat Chrysler vehicles. The findings proved the "illegal use of a device to switch off exhaust treatment systems," the letters said.

The direct approach to the European Union executive comes after the German transport ministry raised concerns over FCA vehicles with Italian authorities earlier this year and a subsequent rejection by Italy of Germany's claims.

An FCA spokesman today said that the automaker's cars conform to current emissions rules and do not contain defeat devices.

The Commission, meanwhile, said that it is the responsibility of the Italian authorities to remedy wrongdoings. "It is first and foremost a dialogue between the two member states concerned, with an obligation to keep the Commission informed and the possibility for the Commission to facilitate a solution if no agreement can be found," the Commission said in a statement

The German tests found a "special nitrogen oxide catalyst which is being switched off after a few cleaning cycles," according to WirtschaftsWoche magazine. It said the affected vehicles include the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade small SUVs, platform siblings, along with the Fiat Doblo car-derived van. The engine in question is Fiat's latest 2.0-liter diesel.

In May, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt criticized FCA for not showing up for a meeting to discuss emissions irregularities of its diesel vehicles. Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio said in June that Fiat diesel engines had been tested and found to comply with emissions regulations.

'Thermal window'

As part of a widening clampdown on health-threatening NOx pollution levels in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, Germany's car watchdog, the KBA, tested 53 different vehicles and found that carmakers were making liberal use of what they described as a "thermal window."

This refers to the time when carmakers are allowed to throttle back exhaust emissions management systems to protect engines from potential damage from condensation when cars are started in very cold conditions.

During their investigations, the KBA found that a very wide range of temperatures was used by carmakers for thermal windows.

The KBA probe found that some Fiat vehicles showed irregular levels of diesel exhaust pollution, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported earlier this year. The paper said the emissions treatment system was throttled back after 22 minutes. The normal duration of regulatory tests for vehicle emissions is about 20 minutes.

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