German officials who searched the offices of Chrysler Daimler earlier this month have been speaking to U.S. regulators about accusations the company duped clean air rules, prosecutors in Germany said Wednesday.
“We are in contact with U.S. authorities,” the prosecutor’s office said, but declined to disclose the nature of potential cooperation and whether the U.S. regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had requested the searchers.
Daimler, owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand, said it would cooperate with regulators. “As part of our cooperation with authorities, we have made the same information available to the Stuttgart prosecutor and the U.S. authorities,” a spokeswoman from the Germany-based Daimler said in a press statement Wednesday.
More than 23 prosecutors and hundreds of staff members, along with law enforcement officials, were involved in searches of nearly a dozen German sites, including Daimler offices, looking for intelligence about “known and unknown employees at Daimler who are suspected of fraud and misleading advertising connected with manipulated emissions treatment of diesel passenger cars.”
The searches came as the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler alleging that Italian auto company used emission-cheating software to dupe environmental regulators.
Fiat affixed so-called “cheat devices” to 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the EPA. Mercedes-Benz is an offshoot of Fiat.
The lawsuit alleges that the automaker equipped late-year Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500s with at least eight software-based features that curtail the vehicles’ emission control systems. The devices allowed the vehicle to push out higher levels oxides of nitrogen than the EPA permits.
Researchers are convinced the Italian car marker’s diesel vehicles have suspiciously high pollution levels and that Fiat used software intended to allow a vehicle’s emissions to pass legal muster at idle but not on the highway moving at top speed.
Dan Carder, a director at West Virginia University’s vehicle emission program, for instance, told reporters earlier this month that a diesel produced more than 20 times as much nitrogen oxides on the road than in idle position.
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