Fiat Chrysler faces enquiry into impeding French diesel emission investigation

24 October 2017

24 October 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has found itself the subject of a French judicial enquiry into suspected obstruction of an investigation into diesel emissions cheating, according to media reports in the country.

Following the admission by Volkswagen (VW) that it cheated emissions testing in the US in September 2015, a number of car manufacturers came under scrutiny in various markets around the world. France began testing vehicles to compare differences between laboratory results and real world emissions, with VW, Renault, FCA and PSA referred to prosecutors for further investigation.

However, the French newspaper Le Monde has suggested that FCA is under investigation for obstructing the enquiry. Other manufacturers have cooperated with the French consumer fraud watchdog, the DGCCRF.

The newspaper states that it has seen a letter, dated 17 October, signed by the examining magistrate Fabienne Bernard, in charge (with two of her colleagues) of the criminal investigation opened on 15 March for aggravated deception. It could therefore receive a fine of 10% of the company’s last three years’ turnover, plus an additional fine of 10% and imprisonment of executives. The DGCCRF’s investigation criticises FCA for having ′hindered the functions of an agent authorised to observe breaches of the code of consumption.’ The letter of the judge Bernard gives details: ′this reluctance to collaborate with the French authorities hindered the investigation of one of the inspectors of the DGCCRF.’

Fiat Chrysler responded in a statement, assuring that it has ′cooperated with investigations by the competent authorities and that it will continue to do so in the future. In particular, FCA is currently cooperating with the French judicial authority, the company continues. FCA is not in a position to comment further since it did not have access to the record and the facts of the investigation.’

The probe focused on diesel engines sold in Fiat and Jeep vehicles, the report said, in particular 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre Multijet II engines in the Fiat 500X crossover, along with a 1.3-litre engine in the Fiat Doblo car-derived van and a 2.0-litre engine in the Jeep Cherokee.

Opel and Mercedes-Benz were cleared by the DGCCRF of deceiving buyers over emissions levels, however Renault and PSA are under investigation over the matter, although not for obstruction.

The Italian manufacturer was cleared of any wrongdoing in its home country in March, however EU regulators have not been convinced by Italy that FCA’s use of defeat devices to modulate the emissions of its vehicles, which include under the conditions of the EU emissions lab test, is defendable, and is prepared to take action against regulators in the region.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has lodged a complaint with a US regulator seeking compensation from a group of shipping companies from Asia, Europe and South America that admitted to fixing prices for shipping vehicles, according to documents made public on Monday.

The automaker wants the Federal Maritime Commission to order payments from Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and its sister company EUKOR Car Carriers, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, Mitsui Lines, Compania Sud Americana de Vapores, Hoegh Autoliners and affiliated companies.

Photograph courtesy of FCA