Exclusive: Italian diesel probe omitted key tests for Fiat Chrysler models

Tue Feb 7, 2017 4:51pm EST
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By Laurence Frost and Silvia Aloisi

PARIS/MILAN (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI: Quote) vehicles were allowed to skip key tests for illegal engine software during Italy's main emissions-cheating investigation in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, according to the transport ministry's own report.

The report, presented to a European parliamentary committee in October but never officially published, will be seized upon by environmental groups pressing MEPs to vote on Thursday for tougher EU oversight of vehicle testing by national authorities.

"It's imperative that we break this cosy relationship between national testing authorities and their domestic carmakers," said Julia Poliscanova, a vehicle emissions specialist at Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment. "This problem is at the heart of Dieselgate."

The Italian report may raise questions for Fiat Chrysler (FCA) as it faces a U.S. criminal investigation for alleged emissions manipulation and German accusations that it, like VW (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), used "defeat devices" to confound nitrogen oxide (NOx) tests.

FCA on Monday became the third carmaker after VW and Renault to be referred to French prosecutors over the scandal. The Italian-American company denies breaking any laws, a spokesman reiterated, declining further comment.

The ministry findings, which have been circulated by some Italian opposition politicians and examined by Reuters, include complete sets of data for eight diesel cars made by BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote), Ford (F.N: Quote), Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote), Volkswagen and GM's (GM.N: Quote) Opel.

But for three of the seven FCA models also investigated - a Jeep Cherokee 2.0, Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 and Lancia Ypsilon 1.3 - results are missing from an on-road measurement phase and a reversed version of the EU's standard "NEDC" lab test.

All seven FCA models also lack data for an "Artemis" test that adjusts the EU lab regime to reflect urban driving styles. The three skipped protocols are typically used to help unmask defeat devices by preventing them from detecting the test.   Continued...

A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan May 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook