When Volkswagen was caught cheating on its diesel emissions it felt like a tipping point. Let’s face it – it was unlikely that the German automaker was the only one trying to skirt around the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tough emissions standards. VW just opened the can of worms, and the EPA was ready to go fishing.
Just one day after VW pleaded guilty to criminal felony charges, Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) was accused of violating the Clean Air Act by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Looks like they snagged another keeper.
Clean Air Act Violations
Heavy acronym alert! The EPA and CARB accused FCA of installing and concealing AECDs in certain 2014-2016 diesel SUVs and trucks. Phew, that’s quite a sentence huh? Let’s break it down:
- The Environmental Protection Agency and California Resources Board have been instrumental in holding VW accountable for their emissions deceptions in the United States. The two agencies say that FCA failed to disclose engine management software in attempt to skirt emissions rules.
- Auxiliary control emissions devices (AECDs) alter how a vehicle’s emissions system functions. They are legal and can be used in specific situations to prevent engine damage. But they can also manipulate emissions test results, so they must be disclosed as part of a certification process by the EPA.
- Fiat-Chrysler installed but failed to mention the AECDs in certain 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engines. That violates the Clean Air Act and makes the vehicles illegal to sell in the United States.
The 3-liter EcoDiesels with AECDs are:
|Make||Model||Years||# of Vehicles|
The EPA said it found at least eight pieces of undisclosed software on FCA vehicles. Now they intend to find out if those can be labeled as “defeat devices,” or used in a way to intentionally skirt around regulations.
“The EPA has determined that, due to the existence of at least these eight undisclosed AECDs in these vehicles, these vehicles do not conform in all material respects to the vehicle specifications described in the applications for the COCs that purportedly cover them.”
FCA has denied any wrongdoing and have said that comparing Volkswagen’s discretions to Chrysler is “nonsense.”
On that second point, I mostly agree. Volkswagen’s scandal was much larger in scope and happened over a longer time period. Volkswagen was also particularly brazen in their “Clean Diesel” campaign and scoffed at the idea of using any urea-based solution to reduce NOx levels.
But FCA loses me a bit when trying to cite technicalities.
“[The] dispute that is going on now between the EPA and the FCA is whether the calibration that was filed was a calibration that met all regulations.” –– Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA
FCA says it has provided documents and information to regulators in order to explain the emissions control technology. They added their diesel engines are equipped with “state of the art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR).”
New software was eventually added to the emissions controls were added to satisfy the EPA and CARB.
In my opinion, this feels like a kid getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then saying “Hey, there’s no problem – I can just put the cookie back. See … solved!”
Lawsuits and Owner Complaints
FCA has been a couple times for issues with its EcoDiesel engines. The plaintiffs, in both cases, say the automaker concealed emissions defeat devices.
November 2016: Dodge Ram trucks equipped with Cummins diesel engines have been named in a class-action lawsuit that alleges the trucks emit nitrogen oxide emissions up to 14x the legal limits.
December 2016: A Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel lawsuit has been filed in California alleging the EcoDiesel trucks and SUVs contain concealed emissions “defeat devices” to hide nitrogen oxide emissions levels 10 times above legal limits.
It doesn’t feel good to be deceived, but one of the top reasons owners are complaining is economical – the catalytic converters in these vehicles wear out faster, costing up to $5,000 to fix.