UPDATED: Justice Department Files Civil Suit Against FCA for Diesel Emissions
Feds Allege Use of “Cheat” Software on EcoDiesel Models
UPDATED May 23, 2017: The United States Department of Justice officially filed a civil lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today, accusing the automaker of illegally using software to bypass emission controls on its EcoDiesel engine family. The lawsuit also names VM Motori, the FCA powertrain division that designed the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6.
For its part, FCA denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a press release issued today, the company said it was "disappointed that the [Environmental and Natural Resources Divison of the U.S. Department of Justice] has chosen to file this lawsuit." FCA plans on defending itself against any claims it deliberately modified software to skirt around U.S. emissions tests. This reaction is different from the one seen by Volkswagen, which fairly immediately admitted fault in its diesel-emissions scandal, leading us to believe FCA might be innocent.
The company is currently seeking EPA and California Air Resources Board approval to resume sales of 2017 EcoDiesel models. FCA says it has revised the emissions-control software found in EcoDiesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500, addressing concerns of environmental regulators about EcoDiesel software found in 2014, 2015, and 2016–model year passenger vehicles. Fiat Chrysler says it will recall and update the software of affected vehicles as soon as it receives approval to do so, and the company expects the installation of the new calibrations will improve emissions without affecting performance or fuel economy.
Ever since the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal from September 2015, automakers around the world have been under regulators’ microscopes for compliance, and any potential malfeasance in terms of trying to circumvent environmental and emissions requirements. The U.S. Justice Department is now turning its attention to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), alleging the company installed “cheat” software on the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 offered in as many as 104,000 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models from 2014 to 2016. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) initially made allegations of the company’s cheating in January, prompting the Justice Department probe, according to Reuters.
The Justice Department and EPA have obtained emails from FCA and its Italian diesel subsidiary VM Motori related to the emissions performance of the 3.0L V-6 engine. FCA has said it would “defend itself vigorously” against claims it deliberately tried to skirt emissions rules. The company is currently working with EPA and CARB to get approval to sell 2017 model diesels, which are on current sales hold pending the outcome of the investigation. Additionally, the European Commission has initiated legal action against the Italian government for failing to respond to emissions cheating by FCA and VM Motori.