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Major vehicle manufacturers embroiled in emissions probe

More than 200,000 passenger and commercial vehicles are suspected to have suppressed emissions data by use of illegal devices in a case likely to have global implications.

Sites in Switzerland, Germany and Italy have been searched as part of an international fraud investigation in which major truck and car makers are suspected of carrying defeat devices to mask detection of exhaust emissions in transit despite passing laboratory pollution tests according to prosecutors in Germany.

The illegal software is in contravention of European Union rules and was found on commercial diesel engines in use by Fiat and IVECO and in the passenger vehicles of Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Fiat.

Offices of CNH Industrial, the parent company of IVECO, and Fiat Chrysler were raided yesterday as part of investigations that focus on activities regarding Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel engine standards between 2014 and 2019 and involve nine individuals residing in Italy.

In a statement Frankfurt prosecutors confirmed Multijet engines including 110 Multijet F1AE3481G, 115 Multijet 250A1000, 150 Multijet F1AE3481D and 180 Multijet F1CE3481E were part of an investigation co-ordinated by EUROJUST.

It is understood the probe concentrates on the Fiat Family B engine range and more specifically the 1.3-litre Multijet, 1.6-litre Multijet and 2.0-litre Multijet of the EU5 and EU6 emission classes used in Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Jeep vehicles.

“While vehicles complied with NOx limits in the testing mode, the defeat devices are assumed to turn off the exhaustion cleaning in real driving,” prosecutors said.

“The use of such defeat devices is banned.”

Although the vehicles passed pollution tests in a laboratory, they used software to largely switch off exhaust emissions filtering while driving on the road.

Prosecutors are not bound by approvals granted by Italian regulators and can review the issue as they did five years ago with Volkwagen's cars which had been certified illegimately by Germany's transport authority.

The Fiat searches took place in the German states of Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg and the Italian region of Piedmont. Sites in Switzerland’s Thurgau canton, yet to be identified, were also raided.

CNH Industrial confirmed that investigators had visited several of its sites after a request by German magistrates and that it was cooperating fully with authorities.

This is the latest scandal to hit the global automotive industry following a US investigation into Volkswagen AG in 2015 when the illegal manipulation of diesel engine emissions first became public.

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