On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler of installing software that appeared to enable certain diesel trucks to emit lower emissions during pollution tests. In response the accusations, the company denied those claims, and insists that its software meets regulatory requirements and said it has offered to make extensive changes to its software to address EPA concerns.
“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. We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a statement.
The vehicles involved were the 2014 to 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0-liter diesel engines. EPA officials said that the allegations affect roughly 104,000 vehicles.
Janet McCabe, head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, confirmed that “no immediate actions are necessary” for owners because their vehicles are still legal and safe to drive.
The software reduced the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted during emissions tests, and hid the fact that more pollutant than is allowed under the Clean Air Act, is spewed, officials said. The company has not yet offered another explanation for the software but has issued a statement saying, “FCA US intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA U.S. customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements,”
The news caused Fiat Chrysler’s stock price to drop 18 percent in trading on Thursday morning.
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”
Advocacy groups quickly praised the EPA for holding corporations accountable and chide those companies for actions that they say are dangerous to public health.
“As polluter lobbyists mass at the gates of Congress and the White House, this case underscores the critical importance of keeping the environmental cop on the beat,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “Otherwise, the breathing public could be harmed, and consumers scammed.”
“Chrysler, which owes its existence to a generous bailout by American taxpayers, is now demanding weakening changes to anti-pollution laws, even as it is charged with illegally polluting,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. “In fighting the charges and looking to the new administration for exoneration, perhaps Chrysler hopes that Donald Trump will tell the company it’s OK to cheat and lie.”