Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has lashed out at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for alleging that his company violated the Clean Air Act. The allegations are that it fit, and failed to disclose, engine management software designed to alter NOx emissions from its 3.0-litre diesel engines
The EPA issued the violation notice to FCA and its US operations for not disclosing the software on 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-litre diesel engines sold in the US. The echoes of Volkswagen’s dieselgate saga are there to be found.
But the ever-outspoken Marchionne isn’t taking it lying down, calling the EPA “incredibly belligerent” in its attacks, and distancing the allegations from the VW situation.
"There is nothing in common between the VW reality and what we are describing here," he said to US media. It's "absolute nonsense" to say as much he added, and said anyone who disagreed must be "smoking illegal material”. That’s certainly one way to protest innocence…
"We're trying to do an honest job here. We're not trying to break the bloody law," he told reporters. Marchionne rejected the suggestion rogue employees could have schemed to violate the EPA laws, saying, “I would have hung them on a door” if discovered.
Earlier this week, Volkswagen agreed to plead guilty to three criminal charges in the US over the long-running dieselgate saga. The company also agreed to pay a total of US$4.3billion in fines while six Volkswagen executives have been charged over the emissions scandal by the FBI.
According to the EPA, the undisclosed FCA software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles. The allegations cover roughly 104,000 vehicles and the agency is working in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has also issued a notice.
“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” said assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles.
“We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” added CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “CARB and US EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”
The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to demonstrate to the EPA, through a certification process, that their products meet applicable federal emission standards to control pollution. As part of the certification process, car-makers are required to disclose and explain any software, known as auxiliary emission control devices, that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.
“FCA did not disclose the existence of certain auxiliary emission control devices to EPA in its applications for certificates of conformity for model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks, despite being aware that such a disclosure was mandatory,” the EPA alleges.
“By failing to disclose this software and then selling vehicles that contained it, FCA violated important provisions of the Clean Air Act.
“FCA may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV. EPA is also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute 'defeat devices', which are illegal.”
In September 2015, the EPA instituted an expanded testing program to screen for defeat devices on light duty vehicles. This testing revealed that the FCA vehicle models in question produced increased NOx emissions under conditions that would be encountered in normal operation and use.
As part of the investigation, the EPA found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution.
But FCA US said this week it intended 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 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,” it said, saying its system met 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,” it added in a statement.
“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.”