Fiat Chrysler (Fiat) may be closer to a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department for violations of diesel emissions guidelines. The affected cars include approximately 104,000 model year 2014-2016 Chrysler Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.
Department of Justice Lawsuit (DOJ)
Fiat was hit with allegations from multiple agencies starting in January, 2017 of violations of the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both asserted that Fiat deliberately cheated emissions tests by installing software devices in Ram 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees SUVs with 3-liter EcoDiesel engines. The DOJ later filed a lawsuit in May, 2017 on behalf of the EPA against Fiat for breaching federal emissions guidelines. Fiat also faces lawsuits by numerous vehicle owners.
Terms of Settlement
Now the DOJ has proposed settling the case upon two conditions: Fiat must pay a “substantial but unspecified” fine and recall the 104,000 affected vehicles. Notably, the settlement does not spare Fiat from further investigation by the DOJ for criminal violations related to the emissions scandal. These criminal claims could arise from Fiat’s alleged use of “undisclosed engine management software.” These mechanisms can identify when the vehicle is being tested for emissions levels and temporarily exert additional controls to provide results that appear to comply with regulations. However, in real-world situations, these controls are disabled and the affected cars emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide into the environment than they did during test runs.
Fiat vehemently denies that it deliberately attempted to deceive federal emissions tests. In August, 2017, Fiat, the EPA and CARB came to an agreement about a software update that remedies concern about emissions regulation compliance. Following the software update, production of both 2017 Ram EcoDiesel and 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee resumed with the improved software.
Previous EPA Violations Related to Cheating Devices
Fiat is not the first automaker to be accused of outfitting their cars with emissions cheating devices. The EPA and CARB alleged that Volkswagen engaged in similar behavior to cheat emissions standards in 2015. As a result of the scandal, the automaker was forced to buy back many of its 500,000 vehicles owned by customers.
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