Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Investigation

Fiat may face €80 fine over emissions cheating

  • Fiat said earlier this year that all of its cars complied with existing legislation (Photo: Bruno)

German authorities are currently investigating whether Fiat has installed emission cheating software in its cars.

The German transport ministry found that Fiat cars' emissions on the road were much higher than in the official test, but transport minister Alexander Dobrindt is annoyed by Fiat's "uncooperative behaviour".

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The Italian carmaker irritated Dobrindt in May by arguing that it only needs to explain itself to the Italian authorities. Dobrindt said the Italian authorities have been informed of his ministry's findings.

But if the Italian authorities do find Fiat has used an illegal defeat device, the fines it potentially faces are only a fraction of the €632 million in profits its parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made last year.

EU member states agreed in 2007 that they would introduce “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties for the use of so-called defeat devices - which reduce the effect of pollution filters.

Earlier this month, this website reported that some member states have put in place fines as low as €1,000.

But additional documents released last week under a freedom of information request by this website show that Italy has even lower fines.

The fine for using a defeat device in Italy is an administrative penalty of between €80 and €318, a letter from the Italian transport ministry showed.

It is unclear from the letter if that fine would apply to an infringement as a whole, or per car. But even in the latter case, there is a stark difference with the United States, where fines start at $3,750 per car, and can be as high as $37,500 per car.

The letter was sent to Brussels in May 2016, in response to questions from the European Commission.

Following the confession by Volkswagen Group in September 2015, that it had equipped cars with defeat devices that could detect diesel cars being tested, the commission tried to establish the level of fines across the bloc.

“We have received the replies from all member states except Greece within the set deadline (12 May 2016) and are currently analysing the information provided received and will assess the need for any further action,” EU commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet told EUobserver in an email.

EUobserver requested to see the responses. The commission released part of the documents in May, showing that several countries had fines lower than €10,000.

On 21 June, it released additional documents, including the response from Italy.

“We are following national authorities' policing and enforcement of EU rules in the automobile sector very closely,” Caudet said.

She said that letters between Brussels and EU capitals up to this point “do not constitute a step in an infringement procedure and their content is confidential”.

She did not respond to the question why the commission did nothing for three years when, in February 2013, EU officials carried out a similar exercise in asking national capitals about their fines.

Then, only 18 member states responded.

However, the Brussels executive did not follow up with those that had not replied, nor did it begin any infringement procedures against those countries whose fines were considerably low.

The fines issue for the use of defeat devices moved up the agenda only after Jean-Claude Juncker took over as commission chief and the Volkswagen scandal broke.

The Juncker commission has recently proposed a reform of the rules on car certification.

If the proposal is adopted, member states would be required to inform the commission annually about the penalties they imposed.

The commission proposed that under the new rules, the use of a defeat device could be punished by up to €30,000 per vehicle.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in May that all of its vehicles were “compliant with existing emissions rules”.

(Photo: EUobserver)

Call to readers: If you have knowledge about the relevant penalty in your country, and it is not yet listed in this article, please contact us.

Emissions cheats face tiny fines in some EU states

Fines for car firms that cheat tests in the EU range from €7 million to €1,000. EU commission itself unsure to what extent states complied with rules on "dissuasive" penalties.

Interview

Learn from US on emissions, says former EPA chief

Europe should increase fines on emissions-cheating software and monitor carmakers more closely, says a former senior official at the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Unpublished report: Italy's Fiat had high emissions

An Italian report triggered by the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal finds Fiat cars emitting more than double the EU limit. The report was finished in July, but has not been made public.

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