In the wake of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, Fiat Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz have been cast into the spotlight, as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have launched new actions into possible cases of emission testing defeat devices being used to illegally pass vehicles for sale.
The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a civil lawsuit against the Italian-American automaker, arguing nearly 104,000 Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs sold in the USA with the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel engine between the 2014 and 2016 model years have been fitted with an emissions testing defeat device.
The EPA alleges “undisclosed software functions cause the vehicles’ emission control systems to perform differently, and less effectively, during certain normal driving conditions than on federal emission tests, resulting in increased emissions of harmful air pollutants”.
In response Fiat Chrysler (FCA) says it “intends to defend itself vigorously” and denied it had “engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions test”.
The company also expressed disappointment the government has filed suit, saying it has been working with the EPA to “clarify issues related to the Company’s emissions control technology”.
FCA has developed new software and has submitted it for certification for the 2017 model year Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. It also intends to install this software on 2014 to 2016 model year versions of those cars.
According to Fiat Chrysler, the new software improves emissions performance, but shouldn’t have “any impact on performance or fuel efficiency”.
As has been noted by Automotive News and other sources, this isn’t the only recent major regulatory problem FCA has encountered with the US government.
In 2015, FCA was fined US$70 million ($94 million) after it was found to have not reported deaths or injuries related to possible vehicle faults. It also agreed to a US$105 million ($141 million) penalty over improperly handled recalls.
The automaker is also under investigation after dealers claimed they were coerced into helping FCA inflate its sales numbers. Fiat Chrysler has since revised downwards previously issued sales figures twice.
Earlier this week, German authorities raided the offices of Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz and Smart, as part of an ongoing investigation into whether the luxury car maker used software to improperly pass emissions testing.
According to Stuttgart branch of Germany’s National Crime Office, 23 prosecutors and 230 police raided 11 Daimler locations throughout the country looking for documents and evidence that might aid in the investigation into “known and unknown” Daimler employees.
In a statement, Daimler acknowledged the raids were “due to suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising relating to the possible manipulation of exhaust-gas aftertreatment in passenger cars with diesel engines”.
The company says it is “fully cooperating with the authorities”.
Neither the prosecutors nor Daimler would go into any further detail regarding the matter.