EPA takes Chrysler to court for cheating emissions tests

The EPA says Fiat Chrysler tried to cheat the EPA emissions standards with software tricks and defeat devices, just like VW.  @bberwyn photo.

EcoDiesel engines on Ram trucks and Jeep Cherokees at issue in civil suit

Staff Report

The EPA may not be beating the climate change drum any more, but it apparently still wants to hold automakers accountable for emissions scams. This week, the agency announced it’s filing a civil complaint against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, alleging that the company installed cheat software on almost 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles.

According to the EPA, the 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engines are equipped with software functions that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, and that the vehicles contain defeat devices. The complaint alleges that the undisclosed software functions cause the vehicles’ emission control systems to perform less effectively during highway driving than on federal emission tests, resulting in increased emissions of harmful air pollutants. 

The vehicles in question include Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles made in 2014-2016 and sold in the United States with at least eight software-based features that were not disclosed. Those features reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems, which means the cars “cheat’ emissions test to meet standards in the lab, but not on the road, when nitrogen oxide emissions are much higher than EPA standards.

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.

NOx pollution contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, which are linked to respiratory – and cardiovascular-related health effects including premature death. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health effects related to smog or soot exposure. Nitrogen dioxide formed by NOx emissions can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and may also contribute to asthma development in children.

The civil complaint filed today seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. The United States also filed a notice that it will request to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California.

EPA and the California Air Resources Board are continuing in their discussions with FCA to bring the subject vehicles into compliance with the Clean Air Act and California law.  The nature and timing of any resolution of this issue are uncertain.

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