US authorities file lawsuit over FCA emissions cheating

24 May 2017

24 May 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is facing a lawsuit in the US, after the government accused it of using software to bypass emission controls in diesel vehicles. However, the manufacturer still maintains it has not done anything wrong.

The US Justice Department suit, filed in a district court in Detroit, could ultimately lead to a settlement but will certainly increase the pressure on the automotive company. Volkswagen (VW) admitted cheating in emissions testing in 2015, and currently faces a settlement figure of $25 billion (€22.3 billion).

In a response, FCA US commented: ′The company has been working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for many months, including extensive testing of the vehicles, to clarify issues related to the Company’s emissions control technology in model-year (MY) 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles.
′FCA US is currently reviewing the complaint, but is disappointed that the Department of Justice has chosen to file this lawsuit. The Company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the Company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat US emissions tests.’

The Justice Department had been in talks with the vehicle manufacturer to avoid the need for a lawsuit. FCA had proposed a fix for 104,000 diesel-powered cars in the US that failed to satisfy environmental regulations, however this has not been deemed as satisfactory.

A statement released by EPA said: ′Following the issuance of a notice of violation (NOV) in January 2017, EPA continued its investigation into the operation undisclosed software-based features on vehicles manufactured by FCA. Based upon this investigation, the complaint alleges that one or more of these undisclosed software features, alone or in combination with the others, renders inoperative, bypasses and/or defeats the vehicles’ emission control systems, which were installed to make the vehicles comply with Clean Air Act emission standards. In short, the complaint now alleges that the vehicles contain defeat devices.’

The Italian manufacturer has been facing investigations in Europe, with French prosecutors opening an investigation into the alleged emissions cheating. Although it was cleared of any wrongdoing in Italy, the European Commission is prepared to launch legal action on authorities in the country for failing to appropriately scrutinise the manufacturer.

Meanwhile, France’s consumer fraud watchdog has alleged that VW made €22.8 billion in sale proceeds on cars sold in the country with cheat devices fitted. The country’s Le Monde newspaper also cites a file sent to prosecutors as stating the company saved €1.5 billion that it would otherwise have had to invest in complying with emission regulations. These figures could be used by a court to set fines against the German manufacturer should it be convicted on fraud charges pursued by the Paris prosecutor.

With VW facing costs of $25 billion (€22.3 billion) in the US, this means that the company could have ended up with a profit of €2 billion from the scandal, effectively covering the cost of compensation in the US. However, the company has yet to face any prosecution in the EU and has refused to publish a report into the findings of the emissions cheating.

Photograph courtesy of FCA


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