Chrysler’s Diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees, Dodge Ram 1500 Trucks Have Emissions Cheat Software: EPA

Fiat Chrysler faces some very familiar accusations by federal environmental regulators, who indicate that the auto maker installed software on its diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks, which was designed to cheat on federal emissions tests. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that Fiat Chrysler faces Clean Air Act violations for installing software on 2014, 2015, and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 diesel-powered trucks sold in the United States. The EPA estimates that the emissions test cheat software was installed on about 104,000 vehicles, according to the Notice of Violation (PDF) sent to Fiat Chrysler.

According to the EPA, the software detects when the vehicles are undergoing emissions testing, and then causes the vehicles to run extremely clean during the test. However, when the test is over, the software switches certain functions off, meaning the vehicles create significantly more pollution while in operation, unbeknownst to the owners.

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The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are working on the investigation together, and say that Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles with the emissions cheat software emit much higher levels of nitrogen oxides than testing indicates.

The charges are almost identical to those leveled against Volkswagen in September 2015, which ultimately led to a Volkswagen recall of some 500,000 diesel passenger vehicles, including some Audi and Porsche models, in the U.S., a number of Volkswagen diesel lawsuits, and nearly $20 billion in settlement agreements with the U.S. government.

“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in the January 12 EPA press release. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhance testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”

The announcement of the charges against Fiat Chrysler comes just days after Volkswagen announced it would pay $4.3 billion to settle civil and criminal charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its own use of emission cheat software, which was reportedly installed on millions of vehicles all over the world.

That $4.3 billion comes on top of the $14.7 billion the company previously agreed to pay to rectify the problem through buybacks of its vehicles and pollution control and technology investments. In addition, more details about the settlement have emerged, indicating that Volkswagen will undergo three years of governmental oversight that will include an independent monitor who will have access to the company’s documents and be able to perform onsite interviews here and in Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered.

Unlike Volkswagen, which quickly admitted to the EPA allegations and worked to resolve them, Fiat Chrysler is denying the charges, and suggests it may find relief by waiting for the incoming Donald Trump administration.

“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-liter diesel engines,” the company said in a press release. “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.”

Following the discovery of the Volkswagen diesel engine cheat software, owners saw the resale values of their vehicles plummet and the company immediately faced lawsuits, alleging that owners paid a premium for vehicles they thought were environmentally friendly, but actually release high levels of pollutants.

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