Fiat Chrysler to modify 100,000 vehicles after possible pollution cheating accusations
Fiat Chrysler says it will modify about 100,000 diesel vehicles in an effort to reach a settlement with U.S. regulators, as separate academic studies provided mounting evidence that the carmaker had installed software meant to evade emissions standards.
Friday’s announcement came a day after the company said it was in talks to resolve a Justice Department investigation. The case bears striking similarities to a Volkswagen scandal in which several executives have been investigated or charged, with the German carmaker paying tens of billions of dollars in fines, penalties and settlements.
Although Fiat Chrysler is unlikely to have to pay as much as Volkswagen, the emissions cheating, if proved, could still be expensive and badly damage the company’s reputation at a time when it is grappling with low profitability.
On Friday, Fiat Chrysler said it was modifying Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles in the 2014 through 2016 model years with “updated emissions software calibrations.” It said it was also seeking regulatory approval for 2017 models with the same software.
The carmaker said the move was the “result of many months of close collaboration” with the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Fiat Chrysler said it believed the updates would help it reach settlements with the EPA and the Justice Department.
The Justice Department has been investigating Fiat Chrysler since the EPA in January accused the carmaker of violating clean-air rules. Fiat Chrysler said this week that it was trying to work out a settlement with the Justice Department but added that it would fight any suggestion that it used illegal software to dupe regulators.
The company already faces accusations in Europe that its cars pro- duce far more nitrogen oxides in normal driving than during tests. On Wednesday, the European Union’s executive arm filed a formal complaint against the Italian government for allowing Fiat Chrysler to sell cars designed to evade emissions tests.
And the evidence has piled up that those high emissions levels were part of efforts to evade environmental standards.
Academic researchers on both sides of the Atlantic separately said this week that they found that Fiat Chrysler’s diesel vehicles had suspiciously high pollution levels and that there was evidence the company had used a so-called defeat device, software intended to allow a vehicle to pass official emissions tests while polluting more when driven on the highway.