The EPA has alleged that Fiat Chrysler used software to cheat on its diesel emissions testing in several models. The EPA’s notice of violation, issued Thursday, said that the company’s Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Ram models used “management software” that “increases air pollution” for three years. A statement from Fiat Chrysler said that they are “disappointed” in the citation, and that they believe their emissions control systems met all requirements.
Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of enforcement and compliance assurance, said:
“All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
The new allegations come after Volkswagen was accused of using similar software to mask emissions in September of 2015. Since then, the carmaker has faced class action lawsuits from consumers all over the world, and was forced to pay 15 billion dollars in fines. Since allegations against Fiat Chrysler, the company’s shares dropped 16 percent.
Fiat Chrysler’s software lowered emissions of nitrous oxide during testing, according to the EPA. They said that “By failing to disclose this software and then selling vehicles that contained it, FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] violated important provisions of the Clean Air Act.”
The EPA said that while it possesses the authority to order a recall of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Cherokees and Rams, it had yet to decide to make that move.
“Any follow-up action, including the need for a recall, will be determined as part of the ongoing investigation,” said an EPA spokesperson. Regulators normally give manufacturers the chance to issue a voluntary recall before forcing one.
Fiat Chrysler did not directly address allegations that it hid the software from regulators, stating that lowering emissions during testing was necessary to “balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency”.
A senior analyst with Autotrader, Michelle Krebs, said:
“We need to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that the Fiat Chrysler diesel situation is the same as the Volkswagen one. It is clear that the Volkswagen diesel debacle prompted regulators to more closely scrutinize all diesels and obviously they noticed some issues with Fiat Chrysler.”
The EPA is now working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on the citation against the carmaker. CARB chair Mary D Nichols said:
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught.”