Fiat Chrysler group accused of using illegal emissions software

British authorities are requesting information from their American counterparts after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group of using defeat devices in some of their models.

The EPA stated yesterday (Thursday 12th January) that it believed FCA had illegally used hidden software that allowed excess diesel emissions to go undetected. The description of the device is of a similar nature to that found in the VW Group vehicles which set off the Emissions Scandal, and the allegations have come about because of findings from the wider emissions investigation set up after the scandal broke.

The Department for Transport has said: "We are urgently seeking further information from the US Environmental Protection Agency . . . and will also be seeking information from the manufacturer regarding vehicles in the UK market," reports Reuters.

The EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) said FCA had failed to disclose engine management software in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-litre diesel engines. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The affected models are only those that have been sold in America at the moment. The Dodge brand is not available in the UK currently, while sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee will not be anywhere like as large as those in the US.

The EPA said it found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emissions are controlled. Fiat Chrysler had recalled vehicles to fix one of the undisclosed software problems.

Cynthia Giles, an EPA official, said Fiat Chrysler had an obligation to disclose the "illegal software" but has not decided whether to label them "defeat devices."

She continued saying: "Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle's engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe. We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices.

"All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage."

"Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught," said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. "CARB and US EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration."

The US arm of the FCA group has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing, saying: "FCA US is disappointed that the EPA has chosen to issue a notice of violation with respect to the emissions control technology employed in the company's 2014-16 model year light duty 3.0-litre diesel engines.

"FCA US intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA US customers that the company's diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements.

"FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR). Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA's regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency. FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.

"FCA US has spent months providing voluminous information in response to requests from EPA and other governmental authorities and has sought to explain its emissions control technology to EPA representatives. FCA US has proposed a number of actions to address EPA's concerns, including developing extensive software changes to our emissions control strategies that could be implemented in these vehicles immediately to further improve emissions performance.

"FCA US looks forward to the opportunity to meet with the EPA's enforcement division and representatives of the new administration to demonstrate that FCA US’s emissions control strategies are properly justified and thus are not 'defeat devices' under applicable regulations and to resolve this matter expeditiously.

FCA chief Sergio Marchionne has responded less diplomatically and with greater anger, with Reuters reporting him saying: "I'm really pissed off" about the reports that link FCA's problems with VW's, and that the EPA could have settled issues in a "more efficient way".

"The way that it has been described, I think, has been unfair to FCA, and that is the thing that disturbs me most," Marchionne said.

The FCA group is the seventh largest car manufacturer in the world, and has brands such as Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Lancia, and Maserati in its portfolio.

Click here for more news of the VW emissions scandal

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:13th Jan 2017

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