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20th Aug 2018

Commission expands legal action to Italy over Dieselgate

  • Germany is worried that a Fiat model, not the one pictured, is more polluting on the road than during the test, because of an illegal defeat device (Photo: Teresa Kluge)

The European Commission told Italy on Wednesday (17 May) that it needs to do more to make sure diesel cars produced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) adhere to EU pollution limits.

The commission is concerned Italy took “insufficient action” and opened a so-called infringement procedure against Italy. It could eventually lead to the country being fined by the Court of Justice of the EU.

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The case revolves around a type of diesel car produced by FCA, an Italian-US company, which the German transport ministry said contained illegal software that made the car appear cleaner in the official test than it was in actual road use – a so-called defeat device.

Italy denied the allegation that a Fiat 500X contained a defeat device, leading Germany to ask the EU commission to mediate between the two sides last September.

In March, the commission closed the mediation process, but without determining definitively whether the car contained an illegal defeat device or not.

Neither the Italian nor the German ministries ever responded to requests for clarification from EUobserver.

The EU commission is now asking Italy to prove that the defeat device, which may be allowed under exceptional circumstances, is really necessary.

The announcement followed previous infringement procedures that the commission already opened against seven other member states last December.

Most notably, it said that Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and the UK had broken EU law by not fining Volkswagen Group (VW) for diesel cars with illegal defeat devices. These four countries were the ones in which VW had acquired its car approvals.

Meanwhile, discussions are still ongoing on how to improve the car approval system.

The European Parliament last month sided with the EU commission, saying that it wanted to make the system more European. However, member states initially appeared reluctant.

Sources close to the Council of the EU – where the representatives of member states meet – say that enough progress has been made for the file to move to the level of ministers, at their meeting in Brussels on 29 May.

Investigation

Fiat questions 'fantastical' EU emissions tests

Italian-American car maker Fiat had "no explanations" for tests showing its cars polluted above EU limits when questioned by MEPs, described some tests as “fantastical”.

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