Fiat Chrysler Emissions Allegations
"Since the VW emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, rumours have been rife among the automotive industry that other manufacturers were also cheating emissions testing."
There have been whispers of Fiat Chrysler being involved in similar behaviour before - now, formal allegations have been made. The day after Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion (£3.3 billion) in civil and criminal penalties for its wrongdoing, the seventh largest automaker in the world - Fiat Chrysler - stands accused of similar behaviour.
How many vehicles are affected?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allege Fiat Chrysler have broken the law by installing software that regulates emissions in over 100,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 3.0 litre 'EcoDiesel' vehicles from 2014 to 2016.
These accusations are remarkably similar to the ones against VW with their own so-called "defeat devices" that altered the way in which vehicles passed emissions testing. The EPA also alleges Fiat Chrysler is in bigger trouble for failing to disclose the use of the technology they're reportedly using.
EPA findings - "serious violation of the law"
From their initial findings, the EPA says the software caused higher nitrogen oxide levels (NOx emissions) than expected. The former EPA Assistant Administrator, Cynthia Giles, highlights the violation, saying:
"...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."
She went on to affirm that "...all automakers must play by the same rules."
We said right from the start of the VW scandal that we wouldn't be surprised if other makers were involved in similar behaviour. We've covered a few stories of other manufacturers being accused of allegedly underhanded tactics for regulating emissions, and it looks like our suspicions may be right.
Unsurprisingly, Fiat Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, defended his company, saying that nothing illegal had been done.
He said: "There was never any intent of creating conditions that were designed to defeat the testing process. This is absolute nonsense."
Is there anything to be looked at in the specific wording of the statement? He says "there was never any intent" - the word intent being perhaps very key here...
In January 2017 the automaker said it would demonstrate their innocence by undergoing testing to show that the technology was justified, and prove they weren't using "defeat devices". Reportedly, they've yet to show what they mean by this.
The Italian-American automaker maintains they haven't done anything wrong and that they didn't intentionally mislead regulators. We're not surprised by their stance - VW did the same when they were first exposed, and they continue to maintain their innocence here in the U.K. and in the EU.
The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against Fiat accusing them of using technology to violate and manipulate emissions controls. However, the government didn't directly allege the automaker of intentionally designing the software to circumvent environmental tests, which is a key factor to note.
The lawsuit alleges that the automaker failed to disclose the software - or what they're better known as in this case, "auxiliary emissions controls", in the 2014 to 2016 Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles affected. The EPA said:
"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."
There were attempts by the U.S. justice department and the automaker to avoid the lawsuit. Fiat tried to settle the case by proposing a fix for 104,000 of the affected vehicles, but this didn't satisfy the environmental regulators.
If VW's scandal is anything to go by, the Fiat scandal could cost the automaker billions. According to the Financial Times, Fiat could pay up to $45,268 (£35,184) for each affected vehicle sold after November 2015, and $37,500 (£28,757) for those sold before November 2015.
These are noted to be maximum fines that are rarely used.
No smoke without fire?
In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said they were "disappointed that the DoJ-ENRD [Environment and Natural Resources Division] 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 US emissions tests."
Again, the wording seems to be leaning toward intent when they use the word "deliberate"...
There's a negative perception surrounding the diesel automotive industry, and the recent allegations against Fiat haven't done anything to ease consumer concerns. But is there ever a case of there being no smoke without fire? Surely these allegations must've come from somewhere...
Legal action in the EU
The EU Commission recently launched legal action against Italy for reportedly overlooking Fiat's alleged attempts at cheating or manipulating emissions testing. The EU Commission have also accused Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain and the U.K. of failing to adequately regulate the use of illegal "defeat device" software.
Our Car Emissions Lawyers have been fighting for the rights of thousands of Volkswagen Emissions Scandal victims since the news broke back in 2015. We were the first in the U.K. to formally accept cases on a No Win, No Fee basis, and we were the first firm to initiate court proceedings in the High Court of Justice too.
We're investigating the Fiat Chrysler allegations, and we'll be helping U.K. victims if there is a case to answer for.
After all, we're the Car Emissions Lawyers for a reason - it is our mission to not allow automakers to get away with any form of emissions cheating, and we will fight for the rights of those we feel are entitled to justice.
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