Fiat-Chrysler being probed over diesel emissions fraud claim
The infamous “Dieselgate” scandal involving Volkswagen had almost brought down the brand for using devices that cheat emissions regulations, while single-handedly bringing around the current decline in the popularity of diesel cars. And now another European manufacturer, Fiat-Chrysler Automotive, is being investigated for a similar issue and prosecutors searched the brand’s sites in Germany as a part of the investigation.
FCA came under scrutiny when potentially illegal devices were found to be used in their Multijet diesel engines for working around stringent European emission regulations. The vehicles were programmed to pass the required legal tests in a laboratory, but then the device will switch off some emissions controls once the vehicle hits the road. This will reduce the emission filtering capability of the vehicle in a drastic manner while improving performance.
The investigation is begin coordinated by EUROJUST and they are focusing on nine specific individuals who are living in Italy and their whereabouts from the years 2014 to 2019. As a part of this investigation, searches took pace in Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg sites of Germany as well as in the Italian region of Piedmont. An FCA spokesman commented that many offices were raided by the investigators and that the company is completely cooperating with the proceedings.
Fiat’s 1.3-litre Multijet, 1.6-litre Multijet and 2.0-litre Multijet engines complying with the Euro5 and Euro6 emission norms are being suspected of housing this illegal device. These engines have appeared in the Fiat, Jeep and Alfa Romeo range of vehicles. The 110 Multijet F1AE3481G, 115 Multijet 250A1000, 150 Multijet F1AE3481D, and 180 Multijet F1CE3481E engines that were fitted to IVECO and Fiat Commercial vehicles are also being probed. It is alleged that more than 200,000 vehicles are affected in Europe alone. Also, the Multijet engines are quite popular in other parts of the world so the number can increase.
This isn’t even the first investigation into FCA for emissions fraud. Last year, FCA settled a civil suit that was brought in 2017 for using what the U.S. EPA considered to be defeat devices in the engine-control systems of its Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models equipped with the 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel. FCA stood by its practices, refusing to admit that it did anything wrong. However, the settlement involved a US$ 3,000 payout to owners and a software fix for their vehicles, but did not offer to buy back any of the 100,000 affected vehicles. A Fiat Chrysler engineer was also charged with conspiracy, violations of the Clean Air Act, wire fraud and making false statements in his role in rigging pollution tests.
Incidentally, Chrysler’s former owners Mercedes-Benz also paid close to US$ 1 billion in fines to the German government to settle the investigation into its own diesel-emissions manipulation.