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Diesel scandal involving motorhomes with Fiat engines

SEND DATE Wed., 04/21/21 | 10:00 pm | The first
  • According to measurements, mobile homes with Fiat engines sometimes emit almost 20 times more nitrogen oxides than permitted.
  • This affects vehicles with the Euro 5 and Euro 6 emissions standard from 2016 to 2019.
  • Neither the Italian authorities nor the EU or the KBA have stopped the sale, although the problem has been known for years.

RV manufacturers cheer. Registrations rose by 12 percent in the first quarter of 2021 alone. Especially in times of corona, many people choose a camper to be able to enjoy a little vacation despite the pandemic. But dark clouds are gathering over the camping holidaymakers: Because now mobile homes are also involved in the diesel scandal. Over 200,000 vehicles could be affected.

Be independent, enjoy nature: Armin Kusch's dream of the mobile home has come true. He spent around 60,000 euros for the car and was initially satisfied with his purchase until a few weeks ago in an Internet forum he read that his almost new motorhome emits far more toxic nitrogen oxides than allowed. "The problem that Fiat may have cheated on the diesel," he says, "and switches off the defeat device after 22 minutes and I no longer have any Euro norm at all. And if I want to sell the car, I'll have the damage."

Now he wants to sue - against the dealer who sold him the camper. His Pössl brand motorhome is based on the Fiat Ducato model. And an illegal defeat device is said to be installed in it.

Wave of lawsuits in the motorhome scene

The lawyer Markus Klamert represents hundreds of RV owners. Most of the lawsuits are directed against Fiat. The clients fear loss of value, driving bans and even shutdowns.

The lawyer even reports of dramatic cases: "In addition, most motorhome owners have a lot of additional attachments in their vehicle and have taken out a lot of large loans or have sold their house and farm for the next 20 years together with their partner or partner Partner to travel the world. In this respect, there may be a whole fate of life behind it. "

Off for the lifelong dream

Ronny Neubert bought a mobile home to live in. The vehicle is not even two years old and is said to be affected by the exhaust gas manipulation. He trusted Fiat: "I chose a Fiat because I thought the vehicle was clean," said the fire fighter from Dortmund.

Ronny Neubert drives to Berlin to have his camper checked by Axel Friedrich, who regularly carries out exhaust gas measurements for Deutsche Umwelthilfe. He and his team are installing a professional measuring system. He has already examined a few Fiat vehicles. Friedrich's experience with Fiat diesel vehicles: "Fiat has very simple cut-off devices. Depending on the time or the length of the journey and the temperature."

Disastrous readings

With the measurements of Ronny Neubert's mobile home you can also observe exactly how the nitrogen oxide values ​​change during the journey. The result of the first round of measurements: The nitrogen oxide emissions are extremely high: almost 20 times above the limit value!

Axel Friedrich is horrified: "That is unbelievable. It says Euro 6 on it, but it did not even comply with the Euro 1 limit values. It is a Euro 0 vehicle. That means the vehicle has values ​​that are incredibly high and that is unacceptable for me, how you can bring such a vehicle onto the market and write Euro 6 on it. That is fraud. "

Plusminus confronts the Stellantis group, to which Fiat now belongs, with the measurement result. The answer: "We can neither explain nor comment on measurements of supposedly excessive values. (...) Our results comply with the applicable regulations and our vehicles are type-approved by the responsible (...) authorities."

Authorities have been in the know since 2016

Indeed: the Italian authorities have approved the Fiat models concerned. The Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), in turn, has approved motorhomes from German manufacturers based on Fiat models. However: Plusminus are KBA documents that prove: The Federal Motor Transport Authority has known of significantly excessive pollutant emissions from Fiat diesel vehicles with emission standards Euro 5 and 6 since 2016. The authority comes to the result based on its own measurement reports: Inadmissible defeat devices.

Nevertheless, vehicles with the affected engine series will still be manufactured and registered until 2019. The Federal Motor Transport Authority said: "Fiat received its type approval from the Italian type approval authority. In European type approval law, type approvals issued from other EU member states are to be recognized by the other member states and type approval authorities."

Europe's mills grind slowly

After all: The Federal Ministry of Transport, which is the superordinate of the KBA, informs the Italian authorities about the inadmissible defeat devices - but they do nothing. The Federal Ministry of Transport then switched on the EU Commission. The opened infringement proceedings against Italy. But that has not yet been concluded. Now the criminal investigation authorities are investigating Fiat for fraud. The Hessian police have called on affected mobile home owners to report.

All that remains is to take legal action

Ronny Neubert now wants to sue about his dirty camper. Lawyer Ralph Sauer from Lahr in Baden-Württemberg took over the case. He sees the error not only in the Italian, but also in the German authorities. The Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt) could have intervened in the registration of the mobile homes, as this would be a two-stage registration process.

The lawyer told Plusminus: "The Federal Motor Transport Authority would have had the opportunity to decide in 2016 when motorhomes were registered that they were not eligible. In the second stage, the motorhome approval that went beyond pure engine approval, it could have decided: No, the motorhome is a new vehicle and we are not issuing the next level of approval for this supplemented vehicle that has been put on the market with a motorhome body. "

Why did the Federal Motor Transport Authority decide differently at the time? Documents that are available at Plusminus show: In 2016, today's Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, when he was a member of the Bundestag, forwarded the letter from a motorhome manufacturer who asked for the motorhome to be registered to the Federal Ministry of Transport.

The ministry replied to him at the time: "It has now been agreed with the KBA that the type approval for the manufacturer of the body will still be granted so that the German manufacturers, who are not responsible for vehicle technology, have no disadvantages." Plusminus asks the Federal Ministry of Transport, headed by Andreas Scheuer today. Here it says: "As a member of the Bundestag, Andreas Scheuer inquired about the state of affairs at the time, but at no point had any influence on the procedure. (...)"

Retrofitting possible

RV owners can hope that their vehicles will be retrofitted from summer onwards. The company Dr. Pley SCR Technology from Buttenheim in Franconia is currently developing a special catalyst - funded with 4 million euros by the Federal Ministry of Transport. Retrofitting a camper will cost around 7,000 euros.

And what does the motorhome manufacturer Pössl, who built Armin Kusch's camper, say about the lawsuits that he has now received? The managing director Markus Wahl told Plusminus: "Our task is to expand the cars. And everything that is chassis is the responsibility of the chassis manufacturer. But the courts will clarify whether the allegations are tenable, whether there is anything to it . "

The victims are hundreds of thousands of RV owners in Germany, many of whom are going to court. Instead of uninterrupted travel fun, they now have trouble.

(Report: Johannes Thürmer, Martina Schuster / BR)
(As of April 2021)

Status: 04/21/2021 10:47 p.m.