class action lawsuit, consumer protection

$884 Million Settlement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV

In 2019, the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. agreed to pay up to $884 million to settle claims that it illegally equipped diesel fuel-powered vehicles with software to cheat emissions standards.

The Department of Justice’s suit, initially filed in Michigan federal court before it was consolidated with the consumer class action in California, was prompted by the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) testing. The testing found that the company failed to disclose that auxiliary emissions control devices (AECDs) were built into nearly 104,000 3-liter EcoDiesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 vehicles. Those AECDs, also known as defeat devices, were made by parts supplier Bosch and kept the vehicles’ nitrogen oxides emission levels within legal limits during test conditions to fool regulators but then allowed the NOx emissions to spike during normal driving conditions.

The company failed to disclose the AECDs when it applied for certificates of conformity as required under the Clean Air Act. The law requires automakers to get those certificates before selling automobiles in the U.S.

Bosch was not targeted by the federal government but faced claims in the related consumer class action.

Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay a $305 million civil penalty to settle claims it violated the Clean Air Act that will be divided between the federal government and California. They also would pay $6 million to settle U.S. Customs and Border Protection claims that it illegally imported 1,700 non-compliant vehicles, according to the DOJ.

In addition, the department said Fiat Chrysler was ordered to recall vehicles and fix the emission problems in a program that could have cost the company up to $185 million.

Separately, the company settled with consumers who had filed a class action in a deal that could reach up to $280 million. They also agreed to pay $72.5 million divided up among the 49 states other than California to settle various state law claims.

The DOJ and U.S. EPA said the settlements do not resolve potential criminal liability.

As part of the settlement with the states, Bosch agreed to pay an additional $98.7 million to settle consumer protection and environmental law claims and make a separate $5 million payment to the National Association of Attorneys General “for training and future enforcement purposes.”

The nationwide class would have included drivers of roughly 100,000 vehicles in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., while each of the state classes would have spanned approximately 100 to 14,000 members and most would have had more than 1,000 members.

In 2021, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. merged with the French automaker PSA Group to form a new company called Stellantis.

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