Fiat Chrysler to pay $800M in pol­lu­tion set­tle­ment

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Dale Kasler

Call it Diesel­gate II.

In a set­tle­ment an­nounced Thurs­day by state and fed­eral of­fi­cials, Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles agreed to pay $800 mil­lion over charges that the global car­maker used “de­feat de­vice soft­ware” in thou­sands of diesel ve­hi­cles to cheat on air pol­lu­tion tests.

The case is sim­i­lar to the multi­bil­lion­dol­lar set­tle­ment made by Volk­swa­gen over the use of the rogue soft­ware — and was dis­cov­ered through en­hanced test­ing pro­ce­dures state and fed­eral of­fi­cials de­vel­oped after the Volk­swa­gen scan­dal was un­earthed by Cal­i­for­nia and fed­eral of­fi­cials in 2015.

“Although the com­pany ad­mit­ted they had used the de­feat de­vice, they main­tained this was some­thing that was in­ad­ver­tent,” said Mary Ni­chols, chair­woman of the Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board, in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters. “We dis­agree with that and the set­tle­ment shows they are ac­knowl­edg­ing they are re­spon­si­ble.”

The case in­volves diesel Jeep Grand Chero­kees and Dodge Ram 1500s made from 2014 to 2016. The state said Fiat Chrysler sold 100,000 of those ve­hi­cles na­tion­wide and 13,325 in Cal­i­for­nia.

"The com­pany not only vi­o­lated the law and our trust, but did so at the ex­pense of our en­vi­ron­ment,” said Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra. “These ve­hi­cles were mar­keted to con­sumers as en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.” Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials first ac­cused Fiat Chrysler of cheat­ing on diesel tests in 2017.

Fiat Chrysler an­nounced that it plans to spend a to­tal of about $800 mil­lion to set­tle the charges, in­clud­ing about $400 mil­lion in fines to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and all 50 states. Cal­i­for­nia, which worked with the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency on chas­ing down the il­le­gal soft­ware, will get $78.4 mil­lion.

The com­pany also set­tled a class-ac­tion pri­vate law­suit to give car own­ers an av­er­age of $2,800 each, for a to­tal of around $280 mil­lion. In ad­di­tion, Fiat Chrysler must es­tab­lish a re­call pro­gram and fix the emis­sions sys­tems on the af­fected ve­hi­cles, and must pro­vide those cus­tomers with ex­tended war­ranties. The war­ranties are ex­pected to cost about $100 mil­lion, for a to­tal pay­out of ap­prox­i­mately $800 mil­lion from Fiat Chrysler.

Robert Bosch, a Ger­man man­u­fac­turer of com­po­nents for Fiat Chrysler diesel en­gines, has agreed to pay $27 mil­lion to con­sumers as well, ac­cord­ing to Li­eff Cabraser Heimann & Bern­stein, the law firm lead­ing the class-ac­tion case.

Fiat Chrysler said the set­tle­ments “do not change the com­pany’s po­si­tion that it did not en­gage in any de­lib­er­ate scheme to in­stall de­feat de­vices to cheat emis­sions tests.” Nev­er­the­less, the com­pany said it needed to re­gain con­sumers’ con­fi­dence.

"We ac­knowl­edge that this has cre­ated uncer­tainty for our cus­tomers, and we be­lieve this res­o­lu­tion will main­tain their trust in us,” Mark Ch­er­noby, the com­pany’s head of North Amer­i­can safety and reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance, said in a pre­pared state­ment.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has been ac­cused by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists of be­ing soft on pol­luters, hailed the Fiat Chrysler case as ev­i­dence to the con­trary. “To­day’s set­tle­ment sends a clear and strong sig­nal to man­u­fac­tur­ers and con­sumers alike — the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will vig­or­ously en­force the na­tion’s laws de­signed to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic health,” said An­drew Wheeler, act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor of the EPA.

The Volk­swa­gen set­tle­ments in­cluded an agree­ment by the com­pany to spend hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in Cal­i­for­nia on elec­tric-ve­hi­cle charg­ing sta­tions and other clean-car projects in Sacra­mento and other cities, as a means of off­set­ting the ex­cess nitro­gen ox­ide emis­sions that fouled the air. NOx is a key in­gre­di­ent in the for­ma­tion of smog.

Fiat Chrysler won’t be re­quired to un­der­take a sim­i­lar pro­gram, state of­fi­cials said. The big dif­fer­ence: Volk­swa­gen’s soft­ware was so thor­oughly em­bed­ded into the ve­hi­cles that most of the cars couldn’t be to­tally fixed. The Fiat Chrysler ve­hi­cles are com­pletely fix­able.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.