Emissions probe widens to Renault, Fiat
French clampdown on Renault follows allegations from U.S. EPA that Fiat Chrysler used illegal software to hide excess emissions
European car makers were drawn into a widening probe of diesel-emissions testing on Friday, with French prosecutors examining
Renault SA and British authorit
ies seeking answers from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
Volkswagen’s admission that some of its diesel vehicles were fitted with software designed to hide their true level of emissions has highlighted that most cars spew out far higher levels of health-threatening nitrogen oxide (NOx) in everyday driving conditions than in laboratory tests.
Shares in Renault fell more than 4 per cent to their lowest level in around a month after a source at the Paris prosecutor’s office said it had launched a judicial investigation into possible cheating on exhaust emissions at the French car maker.
Renault said it respected all laws concerning exhaust emissions, adding that its vehicles did not have software enabling them to cheat on emissions standards.
The French clampdown follows allegations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday that Fiat Chrysler, like Volkswagen, was potentially using illegal software to hide excess diesel emissions.
No manufacturer other than VW has been found to have installed software designed solely for the purpose of circumventing emissions tests, but regulators in Britain and Germany say that car makers have made extensive use of a “thermal window” that allows manufacturers to turn down pollution-control systems for the sake of protecting an engine.
German investigators said they had found that some car makers defined the “thermal window” in such a way that exhaust treatment systems were switched off most of the time.
Regulators across the globe are now seeking to determine when a “thermal window” engine management system becomes an illegal “defeat device.”
Under U.S. law, there is an obligation for manufacturers to declare their emission control strategy. This has been the basis for EPA action against Volkswagen and now against Fiat Chrysler.
The European Commission said it had been informed about the “worrying” EPA allegations and would look at what implications they might have for the European Union.
The European Commission has limited powers to force polluting cars off European roads, since vehicle licensing in the European Union is still conducted on a national level.
But European regulators have introduced a more stringent testing regime designed to reflect everyday driving conditions in the wake of the VW scandal that will take effect this year.
Britain on Friday said it was urgently seeking information from the EPA over its allegation that Fiat Chrysler used hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected.
“We are urgently seeking further information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency … and will also be seeking information from the manufacturer regarding vehicles in the U.K. market,” a spokesman at the Department for Transport said.
Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne angrily rejected the allegations on Thursday, saying there was no wrongdoing and Fiat never attempted to cheat emissions rules with software detecting a vehicle was in test mode.
Fiat’s volatile shares surged 7 per cent in Europe, after falling sharply in U.S. trading on Thursday, and were trading 5 per cent higher in the afternoon.
The auto maker’s stock has risen by around 70 per cent this year since Donald Trump’s elec- tion, on expectations of less stringent emissions policies under the next U.S. administration.
But car makers continue to face scrutiny in Europe. Earlier this week the European Commission called on Italy to co-operate with a German probe investigating allegations that the Fiat 500X, Fiat Doblo and Jeep Renegade models were equipped with illegal cheating software. Fiat rejects the allegations.
Germany’s motor vehicle authority KBA began testing the vehicles of several foreign manufacturers as part of a blanket probe of vehicle emissions after the Volkswagen scandal first came to light.
And the country’s transport ministry asked the European Commission to investigate Fiat’s emissions after being stonewalled by Italian authorities.
Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) Close: $9.73 (U.S.), down 23¢