US sues Fiat Chrysler over Dieselgate-like emissions cheat claims

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee driving rear

THE US Government will drag Fiat Chrysler Automobiles before its courts to answer claims the car maker cheated on emissions tests for vehicles sold in North America.

The Department of Justice yesterday revealed it will ask the US-Italian carmaker to officially defend claims it had built software into the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine powering more than 100,000 vehicles – its Dodge Ram pick-up truck and the Jeep Grand Cherokee – that helped the vehicles to pass strict emissions tests.

The latest step in the crackdown on emissions cheats comes after German premium carmaker Volkswagen earlier this year agreed to pay up to $US25 billion to settle its Dieselgate emissions cheat scandal with US authorities.

2016 Jeep Grand CherokeeIn contrast to VW, though, which admitted early on in the scandal that it had tried to circumvent emissions tests, FCA has consistently denied any wrongdoing. It issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” it would now have to front the court to defend itself.

However, it said it had developed “updated emissions software calibrations” it hoped to roll out in newer versions of the vehicles named in the emissions cheat statement of claim, and would “install the same modified emissions software in 2014-2016 MY Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles” – the vehicles at the centre of the investigation.

“FCA US believes this will address the agencies’ concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles,” it said.

“FCA expects that the installation of these updated software calibrations will improve the 2014-2016 MY vehicles’ emissions performance and does not anticipate any impact on performance or fuel efficiency.”

Wheels has contacted Fiat Chrysler Australia for comment on the latest US moves.

In Australia, Volkswagen is facing claims from the consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, that it misled buyers with the fuel efficiency claims of more than 90,000 vehicles sold here that contained emissions cheats.

Brands affected include Volkswagen, cut-price badge Skoda, and premium badges including Audi and Porsche. The carmaker has since rolled out firmware fixes for about 80,000 vehicles, with remaining cars needing hardware tweaks as well as new software. The ACCC said it did not comment on current investigations.

The claim in the US against FCA alleges the car maker installed up to eight “software-based features” in its engine that were not revealed in paperwork provided to the US Environmental Protection Authority, which performed the emissions testing.

“The undisclosed software features lessen the effectiveness of the vehicles’ emissions control systems during certain normal driving situations,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

“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.”

Oxides of nitrogen are responsible for a number of breathing-related health problems in people, as well as acid rain.

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