Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has agreed to pay $330 million to resolve claims that it rigged diesel-powered vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. with software designed to cheat emissions tests.
The automaker’s settlement includes a $305 million penalty for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, a $19 million penalty resolving California state regulations, and $6 million to U.S. Customs and Border Protections settling claims that FCA illegally imported vehicles that didn’t conform to U.S. environmental standards.
According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in a Michigan federal court, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncovered auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs) installed by Fiat-Chrysler in the computers of more than 100,000 3-liter “EcoDiesel” Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 vehicles.
The AECDs, often called “defeat devices” or “cheat devices,” keep nitrogen oxide emissions levels within the legal limits during emissions testing by using software to recognize testing patterns. During normal driving, however, the AECD shuts off emissions controls, allowing the vehicle to spew illegal amounts of air pollutants.
“Using cheat devices on trucks and automobiles to deceive regulators and consumers in order to sell vehicles that pollute the environment is egregious corporate behavior that can’t be tolerated,” said W. Daniel “Dee” Miles of Beasley Allen. Dee is the firm’s Consumer Fraud Section Head and serves on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for the consolidated litigation. “We are honored to have been part of the solution in partnership with the Federal Government in reaching a very satisfactory result for all victims of this misconduct. “
In addition to the civil penalties, Fiat-Chrysler agreed to recall and repair all the vehicles it equipped with the cheat devices – a process that could cost the automaker $185 million.
The Jan. 10 settlement does not resolve a related a consumer class action seeking to hold Robert Bosch GmbH, the German manufacturer and supplier of the AECDs, liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The class of consumers affected nationwide could include drivers of about 100,000 vehicles in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Fiat Chrysler and Bosch could also face separate criminal charges for cheating U.S. emissions standards with the cheat devices.