FCA to fight EPA, CARB on Ram/Jeep emissions violations

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Updated Jan 20, 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is contesting a violation issued last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which alleges that the automaker manufactured Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs with undisclosed software that produce increased emissions.

The EPA contends that FCA installed and failed to disclose engine management software that has increased nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 2014-2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees equipped with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine.

The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, has also issued a similar violation to FCA. CARB and EPA are working together to investigate alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

RELATED >> At odds over defective emissions system, FCA and Cummins now fighting Ram owners as defendants in class action suit

FCA denies any wrongdoing and has taken exception to comparisons drawn between it and Volkswagen which the EPA cited for diesel emissions violations. Shares of FCA stock in the U.S. dropped 12 percent following the news of alleged emissions violations.

“The immediate reaction both in the press and in terms of the markets has been to try and draw a parallel between these events and the recently settled or at least apparently settled issue with VW,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said during a press conference today. “There’s nothing in common between the VW reality and what we are describing here.”

Marchionne explained that FCA performed calibration exercises on the Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee—both equipped with the popular 3.0-liter EcoDiesel—to ensure that the vehicles met emissions requirements. He said the dispute centers around whether the calibration exercises filed by FCA have met all the regulations set by EPA and CARB.

“We have been in dialogue with the EPA for more than a year. We have done a lot of disclosure of documentation regarding calibrations and all of the correspondence associated with the calibration exercises between ourselves and our partners. And we have been as forthcoming as we can possible be in terms of disclosure,” Marchionne said.

“There is nothing in the current calibration of the Ram 1500 or the Grand Cherokee diesel that distinguishes between a test cycle and normal driving conditions. This is a huge difference because there has never been an intention on part of FCA to create conditions that are designed to defeat the testing process. That is absolute nonsense.”

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The allegations of emissions violations pertain to roughly 104,000 vehicles.

“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”

Marchionne made it clear that FCA was disappointed by the allegations.

“I find this to be sort of a bizarre characterization of FCA’s activities, and I think we will defend our behavior in the right environment,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it’s happening in the last few days of this administration, and obviously — and I don’t want to speculate as to whether this thing has got any sort of political impute, but we find it very, very strange that it would happen the week before this administration changes over.”

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to demonstrate to EPA through a certification process that their products meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. As part of the certification process, automakers are required to disclose and explain any software, known as auxiliary emission control devices, that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.

EPA and CARB contend that FCA did not disclose the existence of certain auxiliary emission control devices despite being aware that such a disclosure was mandatory.

Besides producing documentation, FCA US reported in a press release that it’s also willing to make changes to its engine software.

“FCA US has proposed a number of actions to address EPA’s concerns, including developing extensive software changes to our emissions control strategies that could be implemented in these vehicles immediately to further improve emissions performance,” a press release from FCA US states.

Marchionne pointed out that auto manufacturers are allowed to take steps to protect their engines which may be damaged by emissions control technology.

“We have done—in our view—nothing that is illegal. If there’s anything at all that—that we may have a difference of opinion on as to what we have completely disclosed–the protection mechanisms that are allowed under the regulations to protect engines under particular circumstances,” Marchionne said.

“This is a different type of analysis than the VW story, and I think the sooner we get to that conclusion the better we will all be. As I said, I think we will continue to work with the EPA.  We’ll work with the new administration to try and get this issue behind us, but I think to be perfectly honest I think it’s been blown out of proportion.”

The Code of Federal Regulations

86.004-2   Definitions.

The definitions of §86.001-2 continue to apply to 2001 and later model year vehicles. The definitions listed in this section apply beginning with the 2004 model year.

Ambulance has the meaning given in §86.1803.

Defeat device means an auxiliary emission control device (AECD) that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use, unless:

(1) Such conditions are substantially included in the applicable Federal emission test procedure for heavy-duty vehicles and heavy-duty engines described in subpart N of this part;

(2) The need for the AECD is justified in terms of protecting the vehicle against damage or accident;

(3) The AECD does not go beyond the requirements of engine starting; or

(4) The AECD applies only for engines that will be installed in emergency vehicles, and the need is justified in terms of preventing the engine from losing speed, torque, or power due abnormal conditions of the emission control system, or in terms of preventing such abnormal conditions from occurring, during operation related to emergency response. Examples of such abnormal conditions may include excessive exhaust backpressure from an overloaded particulate trap, and running out of diesel exhaust fluid for engines that rely on urea-based selective catalytic reduction.