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US sues FCA over diesel Jeep, Ram ‘defeat devices’

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.

Dieselgate spreads to FCA as US authorities launch court action over V6 software

Fiat logo24 May 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

THE United States department of justice (DOJ) has filed a civil law suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) alleging the company sold more than 100,000 vehicles in the US with diesel emission software defeat devices.

The Italian manufacturer of the V6 engine, VM Motori – a subsidiary of FCA – was also named in the suit that was filed on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Michigan but is expected to be heard in a San Francisco Federal Court where several other jurisdictions, including the California Air Resources Board (CARB), have started legal proceedings.

FCA released a statement saying it was disappointed the DOJ had chosen to launch the lawsuit and that the company intended 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”.

As GoAuto has reported, Australian federal authorities have started their own investigation into the allegations that surfaced in US EPA testing of 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines in 2014-16 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen “dieselgate” case.

FCA Australia has said it is working with the department of infrastructure and regional development (DIRD) to address the issue.

According to lawsuit papers filed by the DOJ in the US, EPA tests have turned up “at least eight” undisclosed software features that lessen the effectiveness of the vehicles’ emissions control systems during certain normal driving situations.

“This results in cars that meet emission standards in the laboratory and during standard EPA testing, but during certain normal on-road driving emit oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that are much higher than the EPA-compliant level,” the lawsuit alleges.

“The complaint alleges that each of these vehicles differs materially from the specifications provided to EPA in the certification applications, and thus the cars are uncertified, in violation of the Clean Air Act.” Although FCA has indicated the undisclosed software was a matter of oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead authorities, the DOJ lawsuit now suggests the EPA has hardened its stance on the case after recent tests.

“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,” the complaint states.

“In short, the complaint now alleges that the vehicles contain defeat devices.” The charge appears to put the allegations against FCA in the same league as those against Volkswagen, although the numbers of vehicles involved are considerably fewer.

Meanwhile, FCA says it has developed revised software that fixes the issue and is seeking approval to fit it to 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 vehicles.

The company says it can also retrofit it to the affected 2014-16 vehicles, solving the emissions issue.

FCA Australia is scheduled to launch the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee in this market next month. The Ram 1500 is not sold by FCA in Australia, although grey vehicle importers are advertising right-hand-drive converted 2016 V6 diesel Ram 1500 vehicles for sale in this market.

Meanwhile, German prosecutors reportedly have searched Daimler AG offices as part of a diesel fraud probe.

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