EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler of using software to skirt emissions standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a notice to Fiat Chrysler (FCA), informing the automaker that approximately 104,000 vehicles, including specific models of 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks, included “at least eight” pieces of engine management software that helped them “skirt” EPA rules regarding emissions limitations. This software was not disclosed by FCA to the EPA.

The alleged violations run counter to the Clean Air Act, which requires that carmakers show the EPA via certification that their vehicles meet standards set at the national level to help curtail and control air pollution. Part of the Clean Air Act specifies that software included in a vehicle that can affect emissions from the car be fully disclosed and explained as part of the certification process, but FCA did not do that in the case of the named vehicles sold with model years mentioned above.

The EPA says that as a result of its actions, FCA could face “civil penalties and inductive relief.” A new testing process put in place by the EPA in September 2015, which was introduced following discovery of Volkswagen’s notorious EPA emissions standard violations, brought the modification to light, according to the EPA. That means we have to wonder how many more automakers might face similar blowback thanks to the more rigorous screening process.

For its part, FCA US says it’s “disappointed” with the EPA’s choice to issue this notice, saying it’s been working behind the scenes with the EPA for “months” regarding requests to explain its in-vehicle emissions management tech. FCA’s full statement is included below:

FCA US Response to EPA
January 12, 2017 , Auburn Hills, Mich. – FCA US is disappointed that the EPA has chosen to issue a notice of violation with respect to the emissions control technology employed in the company’s 2014-16 model year light duty 3.0-liter 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.

FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR). Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency. FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.

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. 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.

FCA US looks forward to the opportunity to meet with the EPA’s enforcement division and representatives of the new administration to demonstrate that FCA US’s emissions control strategies are properly justified and thus are not “defeat devices” under applicable regulations and to resolve this matter expeditiously.