Italy plays down US diesel probe into Fiat Chrysler's Jeep
By Peter Teffer
A Jeep diesel model that is under scrutiny in the United States for violating rules on emissions is not affected in Europe, according to the Italian ministry for infrastructure and transport.
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US issued a notice of violation for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Ram 1500, made by the Italian-American car company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
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The EPA had not found clear emissions cheating of the type Volkswagen admitted to, but said that Fiat Chrysler had not properly reported the way its emissions filter system worked.
Only the Jeep Grand Cherokee is sold on the European market.
“This vehicle is fitted with a 3.0 diesel engine which is also fitted on the US version, but with a different engine calibration,” said Luisa Gabbi, spokeswoman for the Italian ministry responsibly for certifying and approving cars for the EU market.
“Therefore, the EU emission type approval granted by the Italian Approval Authority (the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport) is not affected.”
Gabbi, in an email to EUobserver, also noted that the EPA had not informed the ministry about the notice of violation. Officials learned about the affair in the press.
However, a spokesman for the Dutch type approval authority RDW, which also approves Fiat Chrysler cars, told EUobserver that it had received a message from EPA on the same day as the notice was issued.
Fiat Chrysler meanwhile has always denied it has acted against the law.
It has already been accused of emissions cheating by the German car approval authority, the Federal Motor Transport Agency (KBA).
According to the KBA, a Fiat diesel model reduced the effectiveness of its emissions filtering system after 22 minutes – a suspicious behaviour considering the official approval test is 20 minutes.
Italy disputes the accusation, and a commission-led mediation between the two is ongoing.
“We expect to meet again at the beginning of February and to provide the Commission with our findings proving that the FCA cars involved are fully in conformity with the EU legislation,” said Gabbi.
Despite common EU legislation, national authorities sometimes have very different interpretation of what constitutes an illegal defeat device – the official term for an emissions cheating system.
Many carmakers have used defeat devices, but claim that they are needed to protect the engine, which is the only exception allowed under EU law.
The European Commission last year said that, while the law is clear, it would publish guidelines that should help approval authorities determine if defeat devices are illegal.
A commission source told EUobserver that these legal guidelines would be ready on Thursday (26 January).
Meanwhile, the Dutch RDW is also investigating suspicious emissions behaviour in Fiat Chrysler cars.
“That has nothing to do with the EPA case,” an RDW spokesman told EUobserver. “It concerns a different type of engine.”
He said RDW is in talks with Fiat Chrysler and other car companies for which the authority registered “non-standard” emissions behaviour in a report published last autumn.