USA government sues Fiat Chrysler over diesel emissions

The U.S. Justice Department may be planning to file a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler over allegations that the engines in its light-duty diesel trucks included equipment to defeat Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests.

The lawsuit against FCA is different in scale - the VW suit involved more than 500,000 vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler expressed disappointment with the DOJ's complaint on Tuesday.

Just how serious is this for Fiat Chrysler?

"In the case of any litigation, FCA US will defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company deliberately installed defeat devices to cheat USA emissions tests", a statement released by the automaker last week said.

If found guilty, Fiat Chrysler could face fines of up to $44,539 per vehicle, or around $4.6 billion.

The Justice Department and the EPA have obtained internal emails and other documents written in Italian that look at engine development and emissions issues that raise significant questions, Reuters reported Thursday. These vehicles feature updated emissions software calibrations, the company confirmed in a press release.

FCA acquired a 50 per cent stake in VM Motori in 2010 and the remainder in October 2013.

Last week, the automaker formally applied for emissions certification for its 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles that it hopes will resolve the certification issues. The EPA first alleged discrepancies in Fiat Chrysler's vehicles in January. The company plans to update software which it expects will resolve the concerns of United States regulators about excess emissions in those vehicles.

Should those vehicles pass their certifications, Fiat Chrysler will update all 2014 through 2016 EcoDiesel models with the same engine-management software.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software allowing its cars to emit up to 40 times legal pollution levels. "FCA US believes this will address the agencies' concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles". All owners of affected 2014-2016 vehicles will have to visit their dealership for the update, if approved. The Justice Department has asked its suit be transferred to the same court.

According to the complaint, Fiat Chrysler failed to reveal the existence of at least eight auxiliary emissions control devices that, when used separately or together, had the effect of "bypassing, defeating, or rendering inoperative" the vehicles' pollution control systems.

Automakers around the world are facing diesel scrutiny.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler's offices were searched by 23 prosecutors and about 230 police authorities in connection with a German government investigation into possible diesel emissions.

  • Zachary Reyes