Investigators have searched offices of car giant Fiat Chrysler and truck maker CNH Industrial in Switzerland, Germany and Italy as part of a German-led probe into suspected illegal manipulation of diesel emissions.
Coordinated cross-border raids were being carried out at “ten commercial properties” across the three countries to gather evidence, the public prosecutor for the German state of Hesse said in a statement on July 22. These included Baden-Württemberg and Hesse (Germany), as well as the Piedmont region (Italy) and canton Thurgau (northeast Switzerland).
The operation concerns the alleged use of so-called "defeat devices" – engine management software used to mask vehicles' diesel pollution output. Prosecutors suspect they may have been used in Iveco vehicles and those of Fiat Chrysler subsidiaries such as Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Jeep.
The prosecutor’s office told Reuters that the investigation was targeting nine individuals living in Italy working for an “international carmaker” and their activities between 2014-2019.
A news release from Eurojust, a European Union agency that supports cross-border judicial and investigative cooperation, said the investigation was looking at 200,000 vehicles made by the two companies as well as their subsidiaries.
Fiat Chrysler and Iveco's parent company CNH Industrial confirmed a number of their offices were searched and that they are providing “full cooperation” in the investigation. Fiat-Chrysler Automobile and CNH Industrial are both controlled by Exor, the holding company of Italy's Agnelli family.
The Eurojust news release did not mention which vehicles were affected but police in Frankfurt called for purchasers to contact them as witnesses, citing Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Iveco models made from 2014 to 2019 with Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel standards. Relevant engines were the 1.3, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.3 litre multijet engines, and 1.6, 2.0, 2.3 and 3.0 litre engines.
Defeat devices allow engines to meet pollution levels under laboratory tests, but shut down the emissions control system in real-world driving conditions.
Wednesday’s searches are the latest in a series of probes into the auto industry following German giant Volkswagen’s 2015 admission to cheating emissions tests on 11 million vehicles worldwide, which has resulted in global investigations and over €30bn (£27bn) in fines.
In January 2019 Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay a $800 million settlement in the US over charges it used defeat devices that produced false results on diesel emissions tests. One of its senior managers was later charged with misleading US environmental regulators over the scandal.