Fiat Chrysler to mod­ify 100,000 ve­hi­cles af­ter pos­si­ble pollution cheat­ing ac­cu­sa­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - JACK EWING New York Times

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.

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