Did FCA Cheat on Their Diesel Emissions, Too?

Here we go again

When Volkswagen was caught cheating on its diesel emissions it felt like a tipping point. That’s because it was unlikely that the German automaker was the only one trying to skirt around the EPA’s tough emissions standards. And with the can of worms already open, it was clear the EPA was going to go fishing.

In January 2017, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued notices to Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) for violating the Clean Air Act.

Looks like the EPA caught another keeper.

Clean Air Act Violations

A pre-warning, it’s about to get real acronym-heavy around here.

The EPA and CARB accused FCA of installing and concealing AECDs in certain 2014-2016 SUVs and trucks equipped with 3-liter diesel engines. Phew, that’s quite a sentence huh? Let’s break it down.

The Environmental Protection Agency and California Resources Board have been instrumental inholding VW accountable for their emissions deceptions. They’ve now turned their focus to Fiat-Chrysler.

Auxiliary control emissions devices alter how emissions systems function. Those are, in fact, legal and used to prevent engine damage in specific situations. But they must be disclosed as part of a certification process by the EPA and they are not allowed, under any circumstances, to be used during emissions testing.

Fiat-Chrysler failed to mention AECDs in the following vehicles with 3.0-liter diesel engines.

Make Model Years # of Vehicles
Ram 1500 2014-2016 ~78,286
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2014-2016 ~25,542

By not disclosing the AECDs, the automaker violated the Clean Air Act and the vehicles were not legal to see in then USA. In the EPA’s eyes, FCA knew about this and did it anyway in order to cheat on its emissions tests.

The EPA has determined that, due to the existance of at least these eight undisclosed AECDs in these vehicles, these vehicles do not conform in all material respects to the vehicle specifications described in the applications for the COCs that purportedly cover them.

FCA’s Response

As you could probably guess, FCA denied the vehicles contained so-called “defeat devices.” They also said comparing Volkswagen’s discretions to Chrysler is “nonsense.”

On that second point, I mostly agree. Volkswagen’s scandal was much larger in scope and happened over a much-longer time period. But as for denying the software exists? I have a harder time understanding that.

“[The] dispute that is going on now between the EPA and the FCA is whether the calibration that was filed was a calibration that met all regulations.” –– Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA

FCA says it has provided documents and information to regulators in order to explain the emissions control technology. Additionally, FCA says it has made a change to the emissions controls and the new software could be implemented to satisfy the EPA and CARB.

This sort of feels like a kid getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then saying “Hey, there’s no problem – I can just put the cookie back. See … solved!”

Lawsuits and Owner Complaints

FCA has been a couple times for issues with its EcoDiesel engines. The plaintiffs, in both cases, say the automaker concealed emissions defeat devices.

November 2016: Dodge Ram trucks equipped with Cummins diesel engines have been named in a class-action lawsuit that alleges the trucks emit nitrogen oxide emissions up to 14x the legal limits.

December 2016: A Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel lawsuit has been filed in California alleging the EcoDiesel trucks and SUVs contain concealed emissions “defeat devices” to hide nitrogen oxide emissions levels 10 times above legal limits.

It doesn’t feel good to be deceived, but one of the top reasons owners are complaining is economical – the catalytic converters in these vehicles wear out faster, costing up to $5,000 to fix.

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