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.