Earlier this year, the EPA alleged that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles broke the law and violated the Clean Air Act by equipping two of its diesel vehicles with Used Engine software that pollutes the air with excess nitrogen oxide emissions, similar to the Volkswagen Group's diesel infractions. Now, the government has formally filed a civil complaint related to the 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and Ram 1500 pickup truck with diesel 3.0-liter V-6 Used Engine .
According to The Detroit News, automakers can legally use emissions control devices to deactivate an emissions control system in certain conditions, but the automaker has to disclose it; the government alleges that FCA failed to do so.
The suit comes on the heels of news last week that FCA asked regulators to greenlight the sale of the diesel Used Engine in model-year 2017 Ram 1500s and Grand Cherokees with updated emissions software. Gasoline versions of both models are already on sale, but the diesels can't be sold in the U.S. without emissions certification. FCA said both vehicles have updated emissions calibrations, and, if regulators give the go-ahead, it will install the same software modifications in diesel versions of the 2014-16 Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee.
In a statement Tuesday, DOJ officials contended that the control devices in the Ram and Grand Cherokee resulted "in cars that meet emission 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-compliant level."
The automaker said it's been doing "extensive testing" and working with regulators for months "to clarify" this issue. "FCA US is currently reviewing the complaint, but is disappointed that the DOJ-ENRD has chosen to file this lawsuit. 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," the automaker said in a statement.
What Should Owners Do?
It's unclear if the government will approve the proposed software fix for the new 2017 diesel vehicles or the model-year 2014-16 vehicles in question. If it does, FCA said the updated software should not impact performance or gas mileage.
It's too early to tell, but if this suit goes the way of the VW diesel scandal, owners would have many options, including further software modifications, a financial settlement and buyback opportunities. Volkswagen agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, among other punitive measures. Stay tuned for more news as it develops.