As Germany tries to exert more authority over the widening car industry emissions’ scandal that began in the country, it is finding not all car makers are so keen to co-operate.
Fiat Chrysler has snubbed the German Transport Ministry’s efforts to question the carmaker and in doing so has won the backing of Italian authorities.
The dispute came to a head this week when Fiat refused to meet German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt to discuss emissions and his Italian counterpart told Mr Dobrindt to effectively leave Fiat alone.
Italian transport minister Graziano Delrio wrote in a letter to Mr Dobrint that Germany should start an “official dialogue” with his office “rather than continuing to discuss directly with the manufacturer.”
Under EU rules, Italy is responsible for testing Fiat cars because the car-maker’s regional operations are in the country.
A German transport ministry spokeswoman said yesterday it’s now up to Italy to look into Fiat’s emissions.
“The spat between national authorities even on emissions’ testing is just another sign of how Europe looks divided on almost everything with a tendency toward nationalism, including in the auto industry,” said Giuseppe Berta, a contemporary history professor at Bocconi University in Milan.
“The behaviour of German authorities could generate suspicion that they are trying to show all carmakers are somehow in the same boat,” he said.
The car industry’s credibility has been strained following Volkswagen’s September admission that it rigged diesel-engine software to pass official tests, prompting Germany to set up a commission to dig further.
Mitsubishi Motors has since acknowledged that it manipulated fuel-economy tests, and Daimler is checking for possible irregularities in its vehicle certifications at the behest of the US Department of Justice.
Mr Dobrindt said on Thursday that he has doubts as to whether Fiat’s cars are in line with rules for emissions certification, and that he was flabbergasted by the decision to rebuke his efforts to question the carmaker.
Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne told analysts last month that “there needs to be much better co-ordination across the national bodies” in Europe on emission standards as “there’s a phenomenal level of confusion out there about the degree of freedom associated with the interpretation of that rule”.
The current spat is the latest in a number of public disputes between Mr Marchionne and the German car industry.
Mr Marchionne had a showdown four years ago with then VW CEO Martin Winterkorn — who had to resign in 2015 over the emissions scandal — during the Paris car show. n Bloomberg
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