German Minister Dobrindt Seeks Recall of Fiat Cars, Bild Reports

  • Italy, Germany feuding for months on vehicle emission rules
  • Italy transport ministry says German stance ‘incomprehensible’

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, escalating a months-long feud with Italy over vehicle emissions, said the European Commission must ensure that Fiat Chrysler cars that break pollution rules are taken off the market, Bild am Sonntag reported.

“The Italian authorities have known for several months that Fiat, in the opinion of our experts, uses illegal shut-off devices,” the Sunday newspaper quoted Dobrindt as saying. “Fiat has so far refused to participate in the clarification” of the matter and the commission “must consequently ensure that a recall is organized for the Fiat vehicles.”

Alexander Dobrindt

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Italian Deputy Transport Minister Riccardo Nencini said in a statement late Friday that 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 after the EU’s executive arm said German authorities have expressed serious concerns on emissions of the Fiat 500x.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 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.

Fiat Chrysler Scrutiny

“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. The commission’s initiative was welcomed by the German Transport Ministry, with spokeswoman Svenja Friedrich telling reporters on Friday that “the EU Commission is now doing exactly what has been demanded for a long time: it’s talking again with the Italians.”

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, Friedrich said at a regular government press conference. “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.” 

Under EU rules, Italy is responsible for testing Fiat because the automaker’s regional operations are based in the country. 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.”

Italy has taken always adopted a “severe, transparent” stance on auto emissions, Delrio told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Sunday.

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