US says Fiat Chrysler used software to cheat emissions tests

US says Fiat Chrysler used software to beat emissions tests
In this Jan. 5, 2015, file photo, Dodge Ram pickup trucks are on display on the lot at Landmark Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM in Morrow, Ga. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the U.S. government is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging that some diesel pickup trucks and Jeeps cheat on emissions tests. The Justice Department lawsuit alleges that nearly 104,000 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014 to 2016 model years have software that allows them to emit lower amounts of pollutants during lab tests by the Environmental Protection Agency than during normal driving conditions. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

The U.S. government is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging that some of its diesel pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs cheat on emissions tests.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Justice Department marks the second time the government has gone after an automaker alleging use of software on diesel engines that allows them to emit more pollution on the road than during Environmental Protection Agency lab testing.

Last year, the government accused Volkswagen of cheating on tests, and the company ended up pleading guilty to criminal charges in a scandal that cost VW more than $20 billion in the U.S. alone.

In the latest case, the government alleges that Fiat Chrysler, or FCA, put eight "software-based features" on diesel engines in nearly 104,000 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014 to 2016 model years. The software allowed the vehicles to emit fewer pollutants during lab tests by Environmental Protection Agency than during normal driving conditions.

The 3-liter FCA diesels emit nitrogen oxide at a much higher rate than allowed under federal laws when on the road, the EPA said in a statement. The company failed to disclose the software during the process to become certified so the vehicles can be sold, according to the EPA. The agency called the software a "defeat device" that changes the way the vehicles perform on treadmill tests in a laboratory.

US says Fiat Chrysler used software to beat emissions tests
This Tuesday, May 6, 2014, file photo shows a sign outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles world headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the U.S. government is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging that some diesel pickup trucks and Jeeps cheat on emissions tests. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

"Each of these vehicles differs materially from the specifications provided to EPA in the certification applications," the statement said. "Thus the cars are uncertified, in violation of the Clean Air Act."

The Italian-American automaker said in a statement Tuesday that it is disappointed that the lawsuit was filed because it has been working with the EPA for months to clarify pollution control issues. FCA has contended that unlike VW, it did not install the software with intent to cheat on tests.

"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."

In the lawsuit filed in Detroit federal court, the government seeks civil fines that could total over $4 billion, as well as court orders stopping the company from making or selling vehicles with undisclosed software.

The EPA issued a "notice of violation" against FCA, exposing the software in January in the waning days of the Obama administration. FCA had planned to appeal to the administration of President Donald Trump for help after Trump promised fewer government regulations.

US says Fiat Chrysler used software to beat emissions tests
In this Dec. 2, 2014, file photo, raindrops dot the Jeep emblem on a Grand Cherokee SUV at a dealership lot, in San Diego. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the U.S. government is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging that some diesel pickup trucks and Jeeps cheat on emissions tests. The Justice Department lawsuit alleges that nearly 104,000 Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014 to 2016 model years have software that allows them to emit lower amounts of pollutants during lab tests by the Environmental Protection Agency than during normal driving conditions. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

At the time, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne denied any wrongdoing and said the agency was blowing the issue out of proportion.

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board still are discussing with FCA ways to make the vehicles comply with federal and California pollution laws. FCA says it still hopes to resolve the matter in negotiations.

"The nature and timing of any resolution of this issue are uncertain," the EPA statement said.

The lawsuit is another example of stepped up enforcement of diesel emissions cases worldwide after the VW scandal. Earlier Tuesday German automaker Daimler AG said that prosecutors will search several of its offices in Germany as part of a preliminary investigation into suspected manipulation of diesel emission controls.


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May 24, 2017
It's sort of depressing how anyone in a company (Volkswagen, Chrysler,..and it's increasingly looking like Mercedes as well) is thinking they could get away with this forever. Technology doesn't stand still and any software you will put in a car will be picked over - not just by governemnet agency test labs but also by your competitors. Who will be only too happy to leak such info to the appropriate authorities.

The amount of stupid in top level management must be huge.

May 24, 2017
It is incredibly stupid for a company to think it could get away with producing millions of non-complying vehicles. Every one of these vehicles is a "smoking gun" which contains the evidence needed to prove the fraud that will cost billions of dollars in fines.

That's why it's still my opinion that no CEO is stupid enough to risk his company's future, or his $14,000,000 salary, on a fraud that has relatively little profit potential compared to the risk. It seems much more likely that the fraud originated in the upper-middle levels of the engineering department, where engineers were ordered to find software solutions to meet the standards.

However, maybe I'm underestimating the stupidity and arrogance of the VW And Fiat-Chysler CEOs. The deeper investigators dig, the worse these companies look.

May 24, 2017
Well, the engineering department is certainly not going to do diddly squat without a direct order from above.

The requirements for the emissions comes from legal department.
The requirements for performance come from marketing.
These requirements are one or two levels (depending on corporate structure) above the engineering departments.
The decision which of the two takes precedence can only come from a management level above these two. There's no way engineering can decide this or implement something like this 'on their own'.

I don't even think this originated with middle management. Middle management usually is far longer with a company than upper management. Middle management would have to believe the fix goes undiscovered for the lifecycle of the product, while upper management only needs to believe it goes undiscovered until they leave with a golden parachute or retire (which is far shorter)

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