Diplomatic row escalates further as Germany claim found new defeat device in Fiat car

03 April 2017

3 April 2017

Germany’s transport ministry claims to have discovered a new emissions-cheating device in a Fiat car during its emissions tests, on top of others it has said to have found earlier.

The news continues a long-running, heated face-off between the Italian and German authorities, with Italy claiming Fiat cars contain no defeat devices, but Germany insisting that they do. The European Union is mediating the dispute, with its own commissioners getting frustrated themselves over emissions compliance issues.

Der Spiegel reports that the latest tests on the Fiat 500X passenger car show that the filtering of an exhaust treatment system switches off after 90 minutes, and that this amounted to a new emissions defeat device. The tests were carried out by Germany’s KBA vehicle authority.

A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles spokesperson said: ′We are not in a position to comment on the validity or accuracy of supposed KBA internal documents or on purported emissions tests that we have never seen.’

Nevertheless, it stressed that the 500X complied with emissions rules ′in all material respects to applicable emissions requirements,’ and that this had been confirmed by the vehicles licensing authority for its car sales across the European Union, which is the Italian ministry of transport.

However, the EU is concerned over the conflict on interest in national governments scrutinising their own national carmakers, and so is bringing in more stringent EU oversight.

Attempts to provide clarity and restore confidence to the EU emissions controls testing system have been hampered by a loophole in EU law that allows carmakers to switch off emissions control systems under specific conditions, for example if not doing so would result in temperatures that could damage the engine. Many carmakers have ostensibly legally exploited this loophole.

Germany’s transport ministry says it will hand the results of its tests over to the European Commission, which has analysed a previous case involving Fiat’s emissions.

A previous test has found Fiat vehicle to have switched off its exhaust treatment system after 22 minutes. The official EU emissions test cycle lasts 20 minutes. Responding to the accusations, Fiat denied its cars were fitted with an illegal emissions test-cheating device.

If public trust cannot be restored to the official EU emissions tests, which carmakers have already lobbied to weaken, there is a risk alternative tests may rise in prominence, such as the new emissions scoring system announced by the mayors of London and Paris last week.

OEMs will need to test and publish the new vehicles’ consumption and emissions results according to the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) from September, which ACEA expects will increase the testing burden by 6-8 times.