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FCA’s diesels questioned

Off to court: US officials say they have discovered software defeat devices in VM Motori V6 diesel engines in certain FCA vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Environmental authorities issue violation notice over undisclosed emissions software

Fiat logo13 Jan 2017

By DANIEL COTTERILL

ENVIRONMENTAL authorities in the United States have issued a violation notice to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act after finding engine management software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 104,000 vehicles are affected across various model years, including 2014, 2015 and 2016 Ram 1500 light trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees fitted with 3.0 litre diesel engines.

In September 2015, in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, the EPA instituted an expanded testing program to screen for defeat devices. This testing revealed that the FCA vehicle models in question produce increased NOx emissions under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use.

The EPA says it has found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.

“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,” said EPA office of enforcement and compliance assistant administrator Cynthia Giles.

“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.” FCA in the US has been quick to deny the allegations.

A statement released by the company said: “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 believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.” The US Clean Air Act stipulates that vehicle manufacturers demonstrate to the EPA via a certification process that their products meet applicable federal emission standards. Part of the certification process requires car-makers to disclose and explain any software, known as auxiliary emission control devices, that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.

According to the EPA, FCA did not disclose the existence of certain auxiliary emission control devices in its applications for certificates of conformity for the affected vehicles.

The EPA claims that by failing to disclose this software, and then selling vehicles that contained it, FCA violated important provisions of the Clean Air Act.

FCA may be liable for civil penalties, which, as the VW case has shown, can be horrendously expensive. The EPA is also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute ‘defeat devices,’ which are illegal.

FCA is adamant that its software does not amount to a defeat device.

“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.” The 3.0-litre diesel engine at the centre of this issue is sold in Australia in various Jeep Grand Cherokee models.

FCA Australia would not be drawn on further details citing the ongoing US investigation.

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