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Fiat could be cheating on diesel emissions, too

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Bild am Sonntag reports that German regulators are investigating the emissions of a Fiat model equipped with a diesel engine on suspicion that it may be evading emissions tests.

The news comes as Volkswagen is just starting to deal with the fallout of the massive, global diesel emissions cheating scandal that threatens tens of billions of dollars' worth of the company's revenues and cash reserves. But the alleged Fiat cheat looks a little different: whereas VW is said to have used a relatively complex algorithm to determine whether vehicles are currently having their emissions tested, the Fiat model in question apparently just changes engine parameters for the first 22 minutes that it's turned on. Conveniently, German emissions tests last roughly 20 minutes. German supplier Bosch reportedly told regulators that for that initial window, exhaust filtering systems were effectively turned off.

Reuters notes that some automakers have been using a warmup mode when cars are first turned on to get the engines to comply with emissions standards, which may be interpreted as a "defeat device" — and it's possible that's what's happening with the Fiat, too. (Volkswagen admitted that its 3-liter diesels were doing this, as opposed to the more comprehensive cheating software installed in its 2-liter models.) It still isn't great, but it's arguably less scandalous than designing an entire software package specifically to evade emissions testing.

The Volkswagen cheat turned a bright spotlight on automakers worldwide, and several have been rooted out in the months since. Besides Fiat, Renault and Mitsubishi have run into trouble.