Italy Calls German Fiat Recall Push Unacceptable as Spat Widens

  • Italian transport minister says tests show no illegal devices
  • Germany urges recall of cars for alleged pollution violation

Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio dismissed Germany’s demands to recall Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV cars for alleged pollution violations as “completely unacceptable,” refusing to give in after months of pressure over emissions standards.

“Our tests demonstrate that there are no illegal devices or abnormal procedures” involving Fiat Chrysler vehicles, Delrio told Italy’s RAI3 state television channel on Sunday evening. “We agreed to set up a mediation commission in Brussels because we have nothing to hide.”

Graziano Delrio

Photographer: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Delrio was responding to German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt’s remarks in an interview in Bild am Sonntag newspaper earlier in the day that any Fiat Chrysler cars breaking pollution rules must be taken off the market. The two officials have been in conflict since May over the company’s cars. The auto industry has been under increased scrutiny after Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions testing scandal became public in September 2015.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleged on Thursday that Fiat Chrysler put software in 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles and Ram 1500 pickup trucks that allows them to exceed pollution limits on the road. The Italian-American carmaker is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department over its alleged failure to disclose the software, according to people familiar with the matter.

Repeated Questioning

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, said Friday that German authorities have expressed serious concerns about emissions of the Fiat 500x SUV crossover, and it said the issue highlights the need to revise the trade bloc’s home-country system for approving and regulating models for sale. “We have repeatedly asked Italian authorities to come forward with convincing answers as soon as possible,” the commission said.

In his Bild am Sonntag interview, Dobrindt said regulators in Italy “have known for several months that Fiat, in the opinion of our experts, uses illegal shut-off devices,” and that the company has “refused to participate in the clarification” of the matter. The commission “must consequently ensure that a recall is organized for the Fiat vehicles.”

Under European Union rules, Italy is responsible for testing Fiat because the automaker’s regional operations are based in the country. Germany’s interpretation of the issue goes against that practice, Delrio said.

“We didn’t ask for any further investigation on Volkswagen; we trusted them,” Delrio said. “A discussion should take place on the basis of mutual trust and respect.”

EU’s Role

The German Transport Ministry welcomed the EU’s comments Friday, with spokeswoman Svenja Friedrich telling reporters that the commission “is now doing exactly what has been demanded for a long time” in pushing for talks with Italian authorities.

Italian Deputy Transport Minister Riccardo Nencini said late Friday that his government is cooperating with the commission and that “insistence of the German government after the responses given by the Italian ministry is incomprehensible.”

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne told reporters Thursday that the U.S. probe “has nothing to do” with the issues VW is facing. The software in question on the Fiat Chrysler vehicles wasn’t intended to bypass emissions tests or operate differently during evaluations than in real-world use, Marchionne said, calling such allegations “absolute nonsense.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE