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U.S. Preparing Lawsuit Against Fiat Chrysler

U.S. Preparing Lawsuit Against Fiat Chrysler

Unnamed Department of Justice sources have disclosed plans to sue Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) over alleged diesel emissions cheating, reports Automotive News. The DOJ and FCA have been in talks for weeks, with FCA attempting to provide a satisfactory explanation to regulators with regards to the emissions system on its 3.0-liter diesel V-6.

The sources state that a lawsuit could be filed as early as this week if talks fail to produce conclusions. DOJ officials have been preparing a formal complaint in the event a lawsuit must be filed against the automaker. The suit being prepared alleges that FCA installed illegal defeat devices on the emissions system of 104,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. In this situation, ‘defeat devices’ means software code that essentially disables or changes the behavior of specific emission control functions. Such defeat devices are a direct violation of the Clean Air Act.

FCA has expressed explicitly that it did not intentionally cheat diesel emission testing performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even the company’s CEO Sergio Marchionne stated on January 12th, “We have no defeat devices.”

“In the case of any litigation, FCA US will defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company deliberately installed defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. “The company believes that any litigation would be counterproductive to ongoing discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.”

After Volkswagen AG’s diesel emissions scandal in late 2015, the EPA began placing increased scrutiny on diesel emissions from all automakers, including FCA. During this increased testing, FCA vehicles appeared to have software controls that modified the emissions control system beyond that allowed by law. It is required by the Clean Air Act that automakers disclose such software regardless of whether or not it is a defeat device. FCA did not disclose their software controls during the certification process of its 3.0-liter diesel vehicles.

As such, the EPA issued a notice of violation to FCA back in January. Since then the two parties have been in talks regarding the matter.

It is important to note that Volkswagen admitted guilt regarding their cheating of diesel emissions testing, but still faced a scandal that cost them upwards of $24.5 billion. If FCA learned anything from the Volkswagen case, it’s that admitting guilt in an attempt to sweep the matter under the rug does not necessarily yield any cost savings versus prolonged litigation.

If the matter goes to trial and FCA were convicted, fines can be up to $44,539 per vehicle. FCA has sold about 104,000 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee units with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6.


About Nick Saporito

AutoVerdict Senior Editor Nick Saporito began writing about cars at age 13. Nick ran a couple of automotive enthusiast sites for several years, before taking some time off to focus on his career and education. By day he's a marketing executive in the telecom world and by night he hangs out here at AV. You'll find him focusing on tech, design and the industry's future.
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  1. Andrew_L
    Chrysler hasn't been run right since the MB buyout. Their lineup now is probably the saddest it's ever been. Chrysler has all of 2 vehicles under it's name the only brand doing well is Jeep.
    Should be interesting to see how this turns out. I love diesels, but if I thought I were buying a "clean" diesel, it better be as clean as it is advertised to be. At this point it is well know the heal hazards of diesel pollutants, so I think I'd want to be sure mine was not cheating the system. I've thought about getting a diesel Colorado someday, but those seem a little too small and too many people don't think they are comfortable enough. Can't wait to see the new F150 diesel.
    I can't say that I'm shocked by this. And if we learned one thing with the VW sandal, there's no merit to admitting guilt...
    FCA is a scummy company. Never liked them or Marchionne. The whole merger thing put a bad taste in my mouth. I'd never own an FCA product, but what really pains me is them owning Case which is a huge local jobs provider.
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