US v Fiat Chrysler on Diesel Emissions Defeat Devices on alleged defeat devices on Chrysler EcoDiesel engines

Not as clean as thought?

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan, against Fiat Chrysler alleging 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles with 3-liter liter EcoDiesel engines are equipped with software that defeat the emissions controls.The action is wide ranging against FCA US, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., V.M. Motori S.p.A., and V.M. North America, Inc.

The complaint alleges that the undisclosed software functions cause the vehicles’ emission control systems to perform differently, and less effectively, during certain normal driving conditions than on federal emission tests, resulting in increased emissions of harmful air pollutants. In other words, Volkswagen2 – the American-Italian sequel.

FCA US announced last week, it has developed updated emissions software calibrations that address the allegations of violations of EPA and CARB. FCA has now filed for diesel vehicle emissions certification with the regulators for its 2017 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles. Subject to approval of EPA and CARB, FCA US will install the same modified emissions software in 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles. FCA US “believes this will address the agencies’ concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles.”

The Clean Air Act requires automakers to obtain a certificate of conformity before selling a vehicle, by demonstrating to EPA that the vehicle will meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. Manufacturers must disclose in their certification applications all auxiliary emission control devices – say computer software that affects the performance of emission controls based upon operating parameters of the vehicle – justify the use of any such devices. The paperwork must explain why those that reduce the effectiveness of emission controls are not “defeat devices.”  Motor vehicles equipped with defeat devices cannot be certified, of course.

The civil complaint filed (there are criminal charges in the Volkswagen diesel matter) seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties.  The United States also filed a notice that it will request to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California.

EPA and the California Air Resources Board are continuing in their discussions with FCA to bring the subject vehicles into compliance with the Clean Air Act and California law.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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