THE DIESEL emissions scandal widened as French prosecutors announced the opening of a criminal inquiry into allegations that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rigged anti-pollution tests.
Renault and Volkswagen already face inquiries in France over nitrogen oxide emissions. However, officials in Paris described as unfounded similar suspicions that had been hanging over Opel, the German carmaker that is being taken over by Peugeot-Citroën.
The Paris prosecution service said three investigating magistrates had been appointed to lead the inquiry into claims that FCA had committed a fraud over the anti-pollution tests “with the result that the [cars] were dangerous”.
The group faces a maximum fine of 10% of its annual sales if found guilty, or €2.97bn (£2.57bn) on the basis of its 2016 results.
FCA has been accused by the US Environmental Protection Agency of installing software in its vehicles to defeat anti-pollution tests.
German officials have also claimed that Fiat cars are equipped with illegal software that reduces emissions in test conditions. Their Italian counterparts deny this is the case. Prosecutors in Paris acted after receiving a report by the economy ministry’s consumer protection and anti-fraud team.
Both Renault and FCA have consistently denied allegations of cheating.
Adam Sage, Paris
This article first appeared in The Times