WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of failing to disclose engine management software that increased air pollution in 104,000 diesel-powered Ram 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs in the 2014 to 2016 model years.
The engine used in the vehicles emitted increased levels of nitrogen oxides, the EPA has determined. The 3.0L 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) EcoDiesel is a turbocharged 60-degree V-6 that's supplied by VM Motori, which is based in Cento, Italy.
In a statement, FCA said it was disappointed that the EPA sent the company a notice of violation regarding its 3.0L diesel engines.
"FCA US intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA US customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements," according to a company statement.
The increased emissions would violate the federal Clean Air Act, the agency charged.
“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
In a news conference following the EPA announcement, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said drawing comparisons between Fiat Chrysler’s software and the Volkswagen software that purposely deceives testing equipment is "absolute nonsense," reports the Detroit News.
"There is nothing in common between the VW reality and what we are describing here," he told reporters during a conference call shortly after the EPA’s announcement. "The dispute that is going on now between the EPA and the FCA is whether the calibration that was filed (during testing to certify emission requirements) was a calibration that met all regulations."
The California Air Resources Board also issued a notice of violation to FCA.
“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.”
FCA believes "that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements" and has been communicating with the EPA on the topic.
"FCA US has spent months providing voluminous information in response to requests from EPA and other governmental authorities and has sought to explain its emissions control technology to EPA representatives," the company said. "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."
Whether the violations are as serious as those leveled against Volkswagen remains to be seen, because the EPA said the agency must still determine whether FCA installed an illegal "defeat device," which can help a higher emissions vehicle evade detection during testing.
“We need to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that the Fiat Chrysler diesel situation is the same as the Volkswagen one,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. “It is clear that the Volkswagen diesel debacle prompted regulators to more closely scrutinize all diesels and obviously they noticed some issues with Fiat Chrysler.”
On Jan. 11, Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties, as well as plead guilty to three felonies relating to its diesel scandal.
Cummins issued a statement following the FCA announcement, clarifying that it did not supply the engines mentioned in the EPA's notice of violation. Cummins provides a 6.7L inline-6 for the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500.
"Cummins does not use defeat devices and is committed to meeting emissions standards," according to the statement. "Cummins has a long history of working transparently and collaboratively with regulators to develop and meet emissions requirements."