DOJ sues FCA over Ram, Jeep diesel emissions

The U.S. Department of Justice today filed a civil lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over alleged violations of federal diesel emissions regulations.

FCA has faced these allegations since January when the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board accused the automaker of installing undisclosed engine management software that led to increased nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) in 2014-2016 Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs equipped with a 3-liter EcoDiesel engine.

The EPA drew comparisons between FCA’s alleged violations and Volkswagen, which is still recovering from emissions violations of its own. According to a report from The Detroit News, DOJ officials say that the vehicles in question “meet emissions standards in the laboratory and during standard EPA testing, but during certain normal on-road driving emit oxides of nitrogen…that are much higher than the EPA-complaint level.”

The lawsuit, according to The Detroit News, also accuses FCA of providing the EPA with specifications for the vehicles that differed from the actual specs of the vehicles on the road. These vehicles are thus “uncertified,” the EPA contends, and in violation of the Clean Air Act.

FCA has denied any wrongdoing throughout its clash with the EPA and said Tuesday it is “disappointed” in the decision by the DOJ’s Environmental Natural Resources Division to file suit.

“The Company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the Company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” an FCA statement issued Tuesday afternoon read.

In addition to working “for many months” with EPA and CARB officials to remedy the agencies’ complaints, FCA says it has already developed new emissions software it believes will do just that.

FCA says it plans to install this updated software in 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles as a fix to the emissions complaints and says it has formally filed for diesel vehicle emissions certification for the 2017 models of these vehicles which will be manufactured with the same software.

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