Published: Fri, January 13, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Fiat Chrysler accused of cheating emissions laws by EPA

The US's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to publically accuse Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) of using cheat software akin to that used by Volkswagen in the Dieselgate emissions scandal, according to Reuters.

Whether the violations are as serious as those leveled against Volkswagen remains to be seen, because the EPA said the agency must still determine whether FCA installed an illegal "defeat device", which can help a higher emissions vehicle evade detection during testing.

The vehicles cited include 2014, 2015 and 2016 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees SUVs and and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines.

The agency hasn't yet called the software controls "defeat devices", but has asked FCA to explain up to eight auxiliary emissions controls devices on those cars they say help the auto pass emissions tests. Approximately 104,000 vehicles with diesel engines were affected by this.

In other words, the automaker hasn't proven to the EPA that their software was there exclusively to prevent vehicle damage, and not to side-skirt emissions regs.

Fiat Chrysler responded by saying it is "disappointed" that the EPA issued the notice of violation.

The automaker did not say whether it will suspend sales of the two models in the interim as it works with the new presidential administration to resolve the matter, in a reference to expected and upcoming changes at the EPA. The company said that it uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) as its emissions control systems hardware. It is adamant that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements and added that it has spent months providing information in response to requests from EPA and other governmental authorities, seeking to explain its emissions control technology.

The EPA told the automaker it believes its auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law.

The news didn't exactly come out of left field, as the EPA has declined to certify Fiat's 2017 diesel vehicles for sale in the wake of Volkswagen AG (ADR) (OTCMKTS:VLKAY) cheating diesel emissions tests in more than half a million vehicles.

The testing - performed sometime after September 2015 - revealed that the FCA vehicles produce increased NOx emissions under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use.

VW later admitted 11m cars worldwide were affected by the scandal, and the company has so far taken nearly €18bn of provisions to cover the cost of its deceit.

The Fiat Chrysler accusations come one day after Volkswagen announced that it would pay $4.3 billion in a settlement with US authorities over their own emissions cheating issues.

Fiat Chrysler holds that its case is not similar to the Volkswagen incident.

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