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Australia probes FCA diesels

Just checking: FCA’s diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee is at the centre of illegal software allegations in the US. Australian officials have now started their own inquiry.

FCA confirms it is working with Australian officials over diesel allegations

Fiat logo18 May 2017

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has confirmed that Australian federal authorities have begun their own investigation into allegations that FCA diesels have breached emissions regulations in some jurisdictions – a claim it strenuously denies.

The company says it is working with officials from the department of infrastructure and regional development (DIRD) in Canberra over the inquiries into diesel emissions control software fitted to certain FCA vehicles.

In March, FCA Australia denied a News Limited report that DIRD had begun such an investigation in the wake of a similar probe by United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), saying the report was “categorically incorrect”.

But FCA Australia told GoAuto today that since that statement was issued on March 23, the company had been contacted by department officials about the issue.

In the US, the EPA’s investigation has centred on diesel-powered 2014-16 Jeep Grand Cherokee and RAM 1500 vehicles equipped with a 3.0-litre V6 engine.

Of these, FCA Australia only imports the Grand Cherokee which is about to get revisions as part of a 2017 facelift.

In the US, FCA is seeking approval for updated software for the diesel 2017 Grand Cherokee that it then intends to apply to the 2014-16 vehicles involved in the EPA claims that became public in January.

“Because these vehicles include state-of-the-art diesel emissions hardware, FCA US is confident it can resolve the agencies’ concerns through software updates,” FCA said in a statement.

“The company also expects these software calibrations will improve the vehicles’ emissions performance without diminishing their driving performance and fuel efficiency.”

Although newsagency reports in the US suggest that official charges against FCA for breaching the regulations are imminent, FCA sources in Detroit have told GoAuto that negotiations between the company and US authorities are ongoing.

But the company warned it would defend itself against any charges should they eventuate, saying: “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 US emissions tests.

“The company believes any litigation would be counterproductive to ongoing discussions with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).”

The FCA position appears to be that the problem is a paperwork stuff-up rather than deliberate cheating like Volkswagen’s cheat device that could detect official testing.

In January, the EPA accused FCA of failing to disclose software-controlled devices – dubbed Auxiliary Emissions Control Devices (AECDs) – on its application for the so-called Certificate of Conformity (similar to Australia’s Australian Design Rule approval) on the V6 diesel.

These devices are not necessarily illegal if disclosed, as other manufacturers have them on their engines. One such AECD can, for example, legally turn off the exhaust gas recirculation system in the event of an engine overheating, allowing extra exhaust gases, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to escape out the exhaust pipe for a short time to avoid system damage.

However, the EPA turned up the undisclosed devices in its own testing, immediately placing FCA in breach of US law.

FCA claims the failure to disclose the devices was an oversight, not an attempt to mislead authorities or cheat on emissions tests.

It says it has never fitted any software as a cheat device, but concedes it failed to disclose such AECDs.

The problem for FCA is that the EPA says its tests showed eight undisclosed AECDs on the engine and that some, rather than kick in at extreme operation conditions, operate “under conditions reasonably expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use”.

The FCA counters by questioning what those conditions might be, as there are no legally defined boundaries for such conditions, nor any official “real world” tests to check them.

Reuters has reported that FCA has received subpoenas from US federal and state authorities, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

FCA said it was co-operating with all valid government requests and that it remained committed to resolving the agencies’ concerns quickly and amicably.

Meanwhile, a German newspaper is reporting that the European Union is preparing to launch legal action against Italy’s transport department for not properly policing FCA emissions.

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