Fiat to modify engines after tests show ‘extreme’ NOx levels

Fiat’s 500X diesel car is the latest to come under suspicion for emitting levels of pollutants that are well over the amounts recorded in official testing. T&E’s German member DUH has published the results of an analysis on the compact SUV, saying the officially recorded emissions levels are ‘technically not plausible’. Fiat denies the car breaches Euro 6 rules, but has agreed to a modification of its engines.

Following the Volkswagen scandal in which ‘defeat devices’ were found to have been used to reduce emissions readings in official tests, DUH accused Opel, Renault and Mercedes-Benz of similarly cheating the system. Last month it added Fiat by publishing results of tests on the Fiat 500X 2.0 diesel, which showed the car emitting between 11 and 22 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than permitted. The study tests involved tests conducted using a a number of different test cycles and different temperatures.

The former government official and respected automotive expert Axel Friedrich said: ‘The extreme levels by which NOx emissions exceed official limits, that have been registered with an Opel Zafira, a Renault Espace, a Mercedes C-Class and now a Fiat SUV, are technically not plausible and suggest defeat devices might have been involved.’

When the VW scandal broke in the middle of last year, environmental NGOs were quick to point out that this was not just one rogue carmaker but an industry-wide problem. DUH’s research has added weight to that assertion. Its chief executive Jürgen Resch said: ‘In the past four months, we have uncovered vastly excessive NOx emissions and in part implicit defeat devices in vehicles made by Open, Renault, BMW and Mercedes. With the Fiat 500X, whose emissions are a clear breach of EU limits, we now have an Italian-American carmaker in the camp of the dirty diesel manufacturers. It’s time to think less of a VW scandal and more of a diesel scandal involving not just German carmakers.’

In a statement before DUH published its results, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the company that makes the Fiat 500X, denied that its cars breached Euro 6 limits, nor that they performed differently on the road than in laboratory conditions. But it did say it was introducing from April ‘a new calibration’ of its engines ‘to improve performance in real driving conditions’. All new new vehicles sold from April will have the modification, while it will also be made available to Euro 6-standard vehicles already sold.