Fiat emissions probe: UK seeks details from US regulator
The UK Department for Transport has asked for details of a US probe into Fiat Chrysler diesel emissions software as a matter of urgency.
The car maker has been accused of not telling authorities about software that could allow excess diesel emissions in thousands of vehicles.
US regulator the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1,500 trucks were affected.
Fiat has rejected the allegations.
A Department for Transport spokesman said it was "urgently seeking further information" from the EPA as well as Fiat Chrysler about vehicles sold in the UK.
"Our priority is to protect the interests of UK consumers ... the department's new Market Surveillance Unit has the ability to test these vehicles if necessary," he said.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is sold in the UK, but the Dodge Ram is not.
According to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, 4,235 Jeep Grand Cherokees were sold in the UK between 2014 and 2016.
Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne said on Thursday that the company had done nothing illegal.
"There was never any intent of creating conditions that were designed to defeat the testing process. This is absolute nonsense," he added.
The EPA said Fiat Chrysler could be liable for fines of about $44,500 per vehicle, which could mean a total of about $4.6bn (?3.8bn).
On Wednesday, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three criminal charges to settle US charges over its emissions-rigging scandal that affected almost 600,000 diesel vehicles. It will also pay fines of $4.3bn (?3.5bn).
John German, of the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the BBC's Today programme that a distinction should be drawn between VW and Fiat Chrysler (FCA).
"VW had software embedded that looked for the actual test cycle used for regulatory purposes, and when they recognised it they turned the emissions controls on, and all other times they shut the emissions controls off. So in the real world, the emissions controls were basically off all of the time," he said.
"FCA has not done this - they're looking at things like vehicle speed, vehicle acceleration, and shutting the emission controls off some of the time in the real world, but not all of the time."
Mr German said that although emissions from Fiat Chrysler engines appeared to be higher in the real world, it was not clear whether this was deliberate.
"It has to do with how exemptions from the defeat device regulations are interpreted in Europe and in the US, and so it could have been just more ignorance on the part of the Fiat Chrysler people who were calibrating this engine," he said.
The UK is facing legal action by the European Union over the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Speaking on the Today programme, Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling must say what the Department for Transport knew about Fiat Chrysler vehicles when they were tested in the UK, given that the European Commission is taking action against the UK over its failure to disclose all technical information gathered in its investigation of VW emissions.
The Labour MP said the government was "too slow" to act against VW compared with the US, "where six executives... were named, and a description of exactly what happened over the past 10 years with these cheat devices is now in the public domain and affects all cars from 2009 to 2016".
She added that while the VW admitted emissions irregularities in September 2015, out of the 1.2 million affected vehicles in the UK, only 160,000 have since been rectified.
"Here we are in the UK... no immediate prospect of action from the government, although I understand from ministers that they are keeping that option open. It certainly seems that we are soft-pedalling."
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