Fiat Chrysler faces emis­sions law­suit

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - TOM KR­ISHER

DETROIT — The U.S. gov­ern­ment is su­ing Fiat Chrysler, al­leg­ing that some diesel pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs cheat on emis­sions tests.

The law­suit filed Tues­day by the Jus­tice De­part­ment marks the sec­ond time the gov­ern­ment has gone af­ter an au­tomaker al­leg­ing use of soft­ware on diesel en­gines that al­lows them to emit more pol­lu­tion on the road than dur­ing En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency lab test­ing.

Last year, the gov­ern­ment ac­cused Volk­swa­gen of cheat­ing on tests, and the com­pany ended up plead­ing guilty to crim­i­nal charges in a scan­dal that cost VW more than US$20 bil­lion in the U.S. alone.

In the lat­est case, the gov­ern­ment al­leges that FCA put eight “soft­ware-based fea­tures” on diesel en­gines in nearly 104,000 Ram pick­ups and Jeep Grand Chero­kees from the 2014 to 2016 model years. The soft­ware al­lowed the ve­hi­cles to emit fewer pol­lu­tants dur­ing lab tests by En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency than dur­ing nor­mal driv­ing con­di­tions.

The three-litre FCA diesels emit ni­tro­gen ox­ide at a much higher rate than al­lowed un­der fed­eral laws when on the road, the EPA says in a state­ment.

The com­pany failed to dis­close the soft­ware dur­ing the process to be­come cer­ti­fied so the ve­hi­cles can be sold, ac­cord­ing to the EPA. The agency called the soft­ware a “de­feat de­vice” that changes the way the ve­hi­cles per­form on tread­mill tests in a lab­o­ra­tory.

“Each of th­ese ve­hi­cles dif­fers ma­te­ri­ally from the spec­i­fi­ca­tions pro­vided to EPA in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ap­pli­ca­tions,” the state­ment said. “Thus the cars are un­cer­ti­fied, in vi­o­la­tion of the Clean Air Act.”

In the law­suit filed in Detroit fed­eral court, the gov­ern­ment seeks civil fines that could to­tal over US$4 bil­lion, as well as court or­ders stop­ping the com­pany from mak­ing or sell­ing ve­hi­cles with undis­closed soft­ware.

The Ital­ian-Amer­i­can au­tomaker has con­tended that un­like VW, it did not in­stall the soft­ware with in­tent to cheat on tests.

“The com­pany in­tends to de­fend it­self vig­or­ously, par­tic­u­larly against any claims that the com­pany en­gaged in any de­lib­er­ate scheme to in­stall de­feat de­vices to cheat U.S. emis­sions tests.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Dodge Ram pickup trucks on the lot at a deal­er­ship in Mor­row, Ga.

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