— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have issued notices of emissions violations to Fiat Chrysler for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
The notices allege FCA installed and concealed "engine management software" in 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 trucks sold in the U.S. and equipped with 3-liter diesel engines.
The EPA and CARB accuse Chrysler of installing and concealing "auxiliary emission control devices" (AECDs) in about 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 pickup trucks.
Although AECDs alter how emissions systems function, the devices are legally allowed under very limited circumstances such as when a vehicle faces driving conditions so extreme the engine can be damaged. Examples of the legal use of the devices include situations where a loaded truck is climbing very steep hills, or when a vehicle is running in extreme heat or cold.
However, the AECDs should never activate when the vehicles are undergoing any kind of emissions testing.
Regulators started testing the emissions systems of FCA and other automakers after Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests. New tests were created for the Volkswagen case and it's the new expanded test cycles that allegedly found the Chrysler devices.
Automakers must go through a certification process showing their vehicles meet federal emissions standards and part of the process requires automakers to explain and disclose any software that may alter how vehicles emit air pollution. Failing to do this will mean automatic violations of the Clean Air Act.
The EPA notice of violation claims Chrysler concealed the emission control devices despite knowing the choice violated the law and made the vehicles illegal to market and sell in the country.
EPA officials say they have no doubt the trucks and SUVs are illegally polluting the environment, and it appears some of the devices cause the vehicles to perform differently on tests conducted in a lab compared to normal road operations.
Fiat Chrysler responded to the EPA by denying the vehicles contain defeat devices or any type of software to illegally alter emissions levels, saying that comparing Volkswagen's emissions disaster to Chrysler is "nonsense." Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the "dispute that is going on now between the EPA and the FCA is whether the calibration that was filed was a calibration that met all regulations.”
According to Chrysler, months have been spent providing documents and information to regulators and government authorities to explain the emissions control technology used in the trucks and SUVs. The automaker says it has already told regulators a change to the emission controls and the use of new software could be implemented in the vehicles to satisfy the EPA and CARB.
FCA says it is "disappointed" the EPA issued a notice of violation, but the automaker intends to work with the incoming administration to assure the diesel vehicles meet all emissions standards.
Fiat Chrysler has been sued recently for alleged problems with EcoDiesel engines in Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles, with plaintiffs alleging the automaker concealed emissions defeat devices.
The proposed 2016 class-action lawsuit includes 150,000 model year 2014-2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel vehicles that allegedly cost $4,700 more than normal because of "clean" emissions technology.
A separate lawsuit filed in 2016 alleges Dodge Ram trucks equipped with Cummins diesel engines emit nitrogen oxide emissions up to 14 times above legal limits.
The plaintiffs say Dodge sold hundreds of thousands of Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks with catalytic converters that wear out quickly due to the alleged defects, costing truck owners up to $5,000 to fix.