Italy’s Delrio Tells German Minister Fiat Cars ‘Absolutely Fine’

  • Italy Transport Minister met Dobrindt Tuesday in Luxembourg
  • Germany questioned Fiat’s emissions systems after probe

Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio, in his strongest defense so far of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV over vehicle emissions, told his German counterpart that the carmaker’s vehicles were “absolutely fine” and the company showed “maximum transparency.”

Delrio said in an interview late Wednesday at his Rome office that he briefed German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt about Italian tests carried out on 25 vehicles of carmakers that represent 75 percent of the Italian diesel market. The bilateral meeting took place in Luxembourg on June 7, during a gathering of European Union transport ministers.

Delrio, who previously served as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s chief of staff, said defeat devices to turn off emissions controls were found only in Volkswagen AG models. “The defeat device is not present in other carmakers and it is not in Fiat cars,” Delrio said, adding that the results contradicted earlier German findings.

“I showed Alexander Dobrindt the data, a graph, and the difference is very clear,” Delrio said. “I told the minister that our tests are completely different and show Fiat is absolutely fine. He took note.”

Germany has acted against auto manufacturers pushing the boundaries of existing regulations as part of the heightened scrutiny in the wake of Volkswagen’s diesel-cheating scandal. In April, it got Volkswagen and other German car companies to agree to voluntarily recall 630,000 vehicles in Europe to upgrade temperature-control setups on diesel emissions systems. Germany has also been in a spat with Italian authorities and Fiat Chrysler over similar systems.

The dispute came to a head on May 19, when Fiat refused to meet with Dobrindt to discuss findings of an emissions probe. Dobrindt said he had doubts as to whether Fiat’s cars are in line with rules for emissions certification. Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority found that Fiat Chrysler allegedly used illegal software to manipulate pollution emissions of its vehicles, Bild-am-Sonntag newspaper reported in May, citing a report by authorities.

Fiat Chrysler has denied using any illegal software.

Asked whether he was satisfied with the way Fiat had handled the controversy with Germany, Delrio said the company had always shown “maximum collaboration and maximum transparency.” Delrio said he regretted the May 19 incident, calling the episode “a misunderstanding.” He added: “I believe this was a legitimate reaction to the fact that different responsibilities must be respected.”

Delrio said it was up to motor transport authorities, not government ministers, to deal with such issues. Asked if the case is now closed, he responded: “For me, the case was never opened, because their finding wasn’t matched in any other country which did tests. We’re in line with what we saw in other countries,” Delrio said. A German Transport Ministry spokeswoman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Germany had asked the EU to tighten a loophole in vehicle-emission rules that allowed carmakers to reduce pollution controls in certain conditions. But Delrio said the Luxembourg meeting rejected this. “Their proposal for changing the rule was rejected pretty much by all the other countries as not necessary.”

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