Justice Department Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Using 'Defeat Devices' on Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee Vehicles

The complaint alleges that nearly 104,000 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel vehicles sold in the United States were equipped with 'defeat devices'

Justice Department Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Using 'Defeat Devices' on Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee Vehicles
Image: FCA
May 24, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a civil complaint in federal court this week against FCA US LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., V.M. Motori S.p.A., and V.M. North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as FCA).

The complaint alleges that nearly 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles containing 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engines are equipped with software functions that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, and that the vehicles contain "defeat devices."

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to obtain a certificate of conformity before introducing a vehicle into commerce, by demonstrating to the EPA that the vehicle will meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution. Auto manufacturers must disclose in their certification applications all auxiliary emission control devices, justify the presence of any such devices, and explain why those that reduce the effectiveness of emission controls are not defeat devices. Motor vehicles equipped with defeat devices cannot be certified.

The USDOJ complaint alleges that FCA equipped nearly 104,000 model year 2014-2016 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles sold in the United States with at least eight software-based features that were not disclosed in FCA's applications for certificates of conformity and that affect the vehicles' emission control systems. The undisclosed software features lessen the effectiveness of the vehicles' emissions control systems during certain normal driving situations. This results 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 (NOx) that are much higher than the EPA-compliant level.

The complaint alleges that each of these vehicles differs materially from the specifications provided to the EPA in the certification applications, and thus the cars are uncertified, in violation of the Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA, NOx pollution contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, exposure to which is linked to a number of respiratory- and cardiovascular-related health effects as well as premature death. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health effects related to smog or soot exposure. Nitrogen dioxide formed by NOx emissions can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and may also contribute to asthma development in children.

In its complaint, the Justice Department seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board are continuing in their discussions with FCA to bring the subject vehicles into compliance with the Clean Air Act and California law.