Report: Fiat Chrysler Facing Criminal Probe Over Use Of Supposed “Defeat Devices”

In a week where Volkswagen and Takata both entered guilty pleas to criminal wrongdoing as part of settlements with federal prosecutors, the Department of Justice has reportedly opened a new investigation against Fiat Chrysler for its alleged failure to disclose so-called “defeat devices” in 100,000 vehicles.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reports that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the carmaker related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s allegation that FCA failed to disclose eight pieces of software that allow them to emit levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) in excess of standards set by the Clean Air Act.

The devices were found in 104,000 model year 2014 to 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 vehicles with 3.0 liter diesel engines.

According to the EPA, these vehicles use software that could allow emissions controls to be used at full force during lab testing, but controls are reduced when cars on undergoing regulator use. The EPA has not yet put a number on how much NOx is being released by the vehicles in question, but did say that it is extensive.

Department of Justice officials declined to comment on the possible investigation during an unrelated call announcing Takata’s $1 billion criminal settlement.

The reported investigation would be the second for FCA in one year. In July 2016, the Dept. began looking under the hood at Fiat Chrysler’s sales practices after an Illinois dealer claimed in a lawsuit [PDF] that the company inflated its sales figures by allegedly paying some dealers to report bogus sales figures in exchange for cash.

In other FCA news Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) called on the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into the carmaker’s “EcoDiesel” marketing in light of the EPA’s allegations.

Nelson contends that if FCA in fact equipped its diesel-engine vehicles with defeat devices, its marketing of the vehicles would constitute unfair or deceptive practices.

FCA marketed the vehicles with videos that included claims such as:

“It’s the greenest Jeep we’ve ever done. It’s got the lowest CO2. So it’s bringing a lot to the table with its green message and the capability and the fuel economy all at the same time.” (referring to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 3.0L diesel engine).


“This is our strong, efficient, clean, very quiet new eco 3.0 liter V6 diesel,” referring to the same 2014 Jeep.

Additionally, Nelson points to the carmakers’ website as claiming that the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s “EcoDiesel meets and even exceeds the low emissions requirements in all 50 states.”

He also notes that the Dodge Ram is billed as a vehicle that is “clean by nature,” “clean by design, with dual filtration.”

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