GM’s Opel to Meet German Commission Amid Dispute Over Emissions

Updated on
  • Opel calls claims from probe by Spiegel, ARD, DUH misleading
  • DUH says emissions controls should work properly all the time

General Motors Co.’s Opel unit plans to meet with a German government commission looking into possible emissions manipulation as the carmaker pushes back against allegations by local media and an environmental advocacy group that its engine software may breach regulations.

Representatives of GM’s European division will appear before the commission on Wednesday, the Transport Ministry said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. The move follows Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt’s request late last week that the country’s automotive regulator, or KBA, recheck Opel models following “reports” that pollution controls may have been manipulated.

Opel is disputing the results of a joint investigation by Spiegel magazine, ARD television’s Monitor program and the Deutsche Umwelthilfe environmentalist group that found software on Zafira compact vans and Insignia sedans cut off emission controls under certain conditions, such as speeds exceeding 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour. The conclusions are “wrong,” Karl-Thomas Neumann, head of the GM division, said Tuesday in a statement. “We at Opel don’t have any illegal software.”

The auto industry’s credibility has been strained following Volkswagen AG’s September admission that it rigged diesel-engine software to pass official tests, prompting Germany to set up the investigating commission. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has since acknowledged that it manipulated fuel-economy tests, and Daimler AG is checking for possible irregularities at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Spiegel and ARD are standing by the story published late last week, and Neumann’s response to the joint probe with environmentalist group DUH didn’t directly address their findings, Michael Grabowski, a spokesman for the magazine, said in an e-mail. The research team provided Opel with its detailed results, he said, disputing Neumann’s contention that the carmaker didn’t receive data needed to check the tests.

Opel was among auto manufacturers that agreed last month with the Transport Ministry to voluntarily upgrade 630,000 vehicles in Europe to fix temperature-control setups that pushed the boundaries of regulation. At the time, Dobrindt said a review hadn’t found that other car models used a defeat device similar to Volkswagen’s program. The minister said on Friday that the commission is also looking into reported emissions irregularities at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

‘Misleading Oversimplifications’

The results published in the Spiegel-ARD report are “misleading oversimplifications and misinterpretations of the complicated interrelationships of a modern emissions control system of a diesel engine,” said Neumann. “Our engines are in line with the legal requirements. We anticipate the authorities to share this point of view.”

The DUH said it’s passing along the findings to German regulators. “It’s important that the emissions technology operates properly,” said Dorothee Saar, a DUH spokeswoman. “It cannot be that it only works at narrowly set parameters.” The environmental group filed a complaint with German prosecutors, who are reviewing whether to open a probe.

Opel said it has given full details about engine software and emissions strategy to the KBA in October and that it will publish further information after consulting with authorities.

“We’ve worked transparently with authorities in Germany and Europe and will continue to do so,” Neumann said.

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