Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today announced it intends to "defend itself vigorously" against a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging the automaker installed software in diesel vehicles intended to make the engines run cleaner in emissions testing than in regular driving.
The suit comes a few months after the EPA, along with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) first accused FCA of installing emissions cheat software in the 3.0L diesel engine used in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and 2016 Ram 1500 trucks and dating back to 2014 models.
Since then, FCA says it has been working with the EPA and CARB to "clarify" issues surrounding the agencies' concerns the diesel's engine control software contains programming that causes it to behave differently when connected to emissions testing equipment. According to its January notice of violation against FCA, the EPA said the automaker could face fines up to US$4.6 billion; thus far, the agency has not been satisfied by FCA's explanation for what the software in question actually does, and that's why the EPA has escalated the situation with this suit.
In simple terms, those U.S. regulators believe FCA is pulling a Volkswagen and attempting to get around North American emissions laws that limit how much of various airborne pollutants a diesel engine can chug out of its tailpipe.
In a press release issued in response to the civil suit, FCA denies any wrongdoing and explains that it has been working with the EPA voluntarily.
That work resulted in FCA reprogramming its diesel control software for 2017 models, for which it is waiting for regulatory approval so that it can begin selling them. FCA says it expects this recalibration will bring the 2014-2016 engines into line with EPA and CARB expectations.