PARIS (Reuters) - A French investigation into suspected diesel test-cheating by Fiat Chrysler is focusing on vehicle models that generated 152 million euros ($181 million) in sales in the country, Le Monde reported on Monday.
Recent FCA diesels, which include the Jeep Cherokee and Fiat 500X, emitted as much as 11 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides (NOx) when tests were extended beyond their usual 20 minutes, suggesting the presence of banned software used to manipulate the official tests, according to findings by the French DGCCRF consumer fraud watchdog reported by the newspaper.
French prosecutors opened a formal investigation in March on the basis of the DGCCRF report.
“FCA believes that the allegations reported by the press have no basis,” the carmaker said in a statement, adding that it was cooperating with the French investigation. The DGCCRF declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
French prosecutors are probing FCA, along with Renault, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and PSA Group, over suspected diesel test-rigging.
Since VW’s 2015 admission that it used illegal “defeat devices” in the United States, follow-up studies have revealed widespread differences in toxic NOx emissions between regulatory tests - at predictable speeds and temperatures - and those carried out in slightly modified conditions.
French authorities are investigating the four carmakers under aggravated fraud charges that carry maximum fines of 10 percent of global revenue - or 9.62 billion euros in FCA’s case.
However, French sales of vehicles equipped with suspect software offer a better gauge of potential exposure in the event of conviction. The fraud watchdog puts the sales figure at 151.69 million euros for the years 2014-16, Le Monde said.
According to the French daily, the DGCCRF has also accused FCA of obstructing its investigation, as reported by Reuters last month.
Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by Richard Lough