A shocking accusation rocked the automotive world today with the EPA claiming FCA has created a cheat device on the 2014-16 Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel and Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0L EcoDiesel products. FCA vehemently denies the claims and this latest scuffle with government agencies is likely to take some time to come to a conclusion.
The allegations by the EPA says Fiat Chrysler installed software on approximately 104,000 pickup and SUV vehicles that “spewed harmful pollutants while failing to disclose the technology, thus cheating emissions standards,” according to a USA Today story.
During more extensive testing (spurned on by the VW diesel scandal) found eight different undisclosed software programs on vehicles.
“This is a clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, told reporters. “There is no doubt they are contributing to illegal pollution.”
Giles went on to explain the vehicles were programmed with the software and this disclosure was not reported to the EPA. During testing, the EPA found these vehicles met the standards, but when driven at high speeds and in extended driving they violate regulations.
“That means that the vehicles were sold illegally,” she said.
Through a strongly worded press release and a hastly arranged conference call with reporters, FCA fired back at the accusations and said it was blindsided by the announcement.
In their view they have done everything the EPA has requested in disclosing information and have kept investigators abreast of their technologies.
FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne called the attacks “incredibly belligerent” and maintained his company had done nothing illegally. He also speculated at the timing of the announcement with a new administration set to take office.
“We find it very, very strange it would happen before this administration changes over,” Marchionne said.
If the FCA and the EPA can’t come to an agreement on the so-called cheat devices, the fines can be substantial.
These violations are directly related to the Clean Air Act and the EPA has the authority to fine automakers upwards of $44,539 per vehicle. The EPA threatened it would fine FCA if through further investigation it discovers this software does indeed qualify as illegal defeat devices.
Analysts speculate this won’t happen and could simply be a paperwork issue. However, like the VW scandal which has literally cost that company billions, this would be a big blow to FCA’s recent rebirth and future plans.
“To be perfectly honest I think it’s being blown out of proportion,” Marchionne said. “I find this to be a bizarre characterization of FCA’s activities and we will defend our behavior.”
Finally, this isn’t FCA’s first scuffle with government agencies. You may recall they fought a recall effort back in 2013 for Jeep products that could catch fire if rear ended. After months of negotiations, FCA recalled these Jeeps to add a trailer hitch.
Information and quotes from USA Today used in this article.