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Auto emissions 'cheatware' scandal sparks war of words between Italy, Germany

EPA's allegations against Fiat Chrysler become sweary international incident

By Richard Chirgwin, 17 Jan 2017

The latest “cheatware” scandal to rock the auto industry has escalated to cause inter-government tension, with Germany and Italy trading snipes over Fiat Chrysler's claims about emissions.

It's hardly surprising that once regulators discovered the Volkswagen cheat, they'd take a look at other car-makers to see if their software was telling the truth.

Last week, America's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused Fiat-Chrysler of “illegally using hidden software” in its engine management so that excess diesel emissions went undetected. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board called the cheatware “undeclared auxiliary emission control software”.

The US allegation covers more than 100,000 Jeep Grand Cheroke SUVs and Ram 1500 pickups. Germany last year asked the European Union to look into the Fiat 500X, Fiat Doblo, and Jeep Renegade.

That's sparked a US Department of Justice probe, and an angry denial by Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. According to Reuters, Marchionne said “We're not trying to break the bloody law”, and that he's “really pissed off”.

The US authorities stopped short of calling the software a “defeat device”.

Things escalated to “international incident” when Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said any cars found to be cheating on emission testing should be recalled.

His Italian counterpart Graziano Delrio, forgetting perhaps that companies are more-or-less separate to the state, called the suggestion “unacceptable” and adding: “You don't give orders to a sovereign nation like Italy.”

Italian consumer group Altroconsumo is complaining that country's Transport Ministry has failed to deliver a September 2015 promise to distribute diesel emissions data.

Reuters adds that while the Italian ministry reckons it's given a clean bill of health to the Fiat 500X, the EU has yet to conduct its tests.

Another Italian consumer group, Codacons, wants Italian prosecutors to find out whether any of the allegedly-infringing engines sold in America were also sold in Italy (release, in Italian). ®

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