Italy Rejects Germany’s Request on Fiat Cars in Months-Long Feud

  • Italian official says German insistence ‘incomprehensible’
  • German authorities have expressed concerns on Fiat 500x

Italy rejected Germany’s request to look closer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s vehicles to ensure they meet European emission rules, as the months-long feud between the countries over the issue escalated.

Italian Deputy Transport Minister Riccardo Nencini said the “insistence of the German government after the responses given by the Italian ministry is incomprehensible.” Italy’s government is collaborating with the European Commission, Nencini said in a statement late Friday after the EU’s executive arm said German authorities have expressed serious concerns on emissions of the Fiat 500x.

“We have repeatedly asked Italian authorities to come forward with convincing answers as soon as possible,” the EU Commission said in an e-mailed statement Friday.

Fiat-Chrysler is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department over its alleged failure to disclose software that violated emissions standards, according to people familiar with the matter, another legal hurdle for a company already under criminal scrutiny for its sales practices. The possibility of a criminal action over diesel emissions violations comes after the Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it found software in 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500s that allowed the automaker to exceed pollution limits on the road.

Nencini said neither of the two U.S. models are sold in Italy.

The Fiat Chrysler scrutiny follows revelations of cheating and conspiracy that has cost Volkswagen AG more than $20 billion. Fiat Chrysler’s Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said Thursday during a call with reporters the matter "has nothing to do" with VW.  He said the software wasn’t intended to bypass emissions tests or operate differently in evaluation than in real-world use, calling such allegations “absolute nonsense.”

"We are confident that no one at FCA committed any fraud or tried not to be compliant," Marchionne said. "We may be technically deficient but not immoral. We never installed any defeat device."

Germany’s KBA motor vehicle authority has carried out investigations on several Fiat vehicles, German Transport Ministry spokeswoman Svenja Friedrich told reporters at a regular government press conference on Friday. “The result was that a considerable reduction of the exhaust gas cleaning function occurs after a certain time. We are still of the opinion that these are unlawful switch-off facilities.” 

The German Transport Minister wants the EU Commission to intervene in the feud by setting up consultations to find a resolution to disagreements over test results. “The EU Commission is now doing exactly what has been demanded for a long time: it’s talking again with the Italians,” Friedrich said.

Under EU rules, Italy is responsible for testing Fiat because the automaker’s regional operations are based in the country. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said in May that he doubts Fiat’s cars are in line with rules for emissions certification. Then Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio replied in a Bloomberg interview a month later that the carmaker’s vehicles were “absolutely fine” and the company showed “maximum transparency.”

— With assistance by Tommaso Ebhardt, and Ewa Krukowska

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