EPA Ratchets Up Crusade Against Fiat For Allegedly Using Cheat Devices

The Justice Department filed a complaint Tuesday against Fiat Chrysler alleging that the Italian auto company used emission-cheating software to dupe environmental regulators.

Fiat affixed so-called “cheat devices” to 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It also alleges that the automaker equipped late-year Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500s with at least eight software-based features that curtail the vehicles’ emission control systems. The devices allowed the vehicle to push out higher levels oxides of nitrogen than the EPA permits.

The company said that the Justice Department’s decision was disappointing, adding that it will put forth a pitched battle to defend itself against claims that “it engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests.”

Fiat promised earlier this month to update the software systems of more than 100,000 diesel vehicles. The company maintains that it has not engaged in a scandal like the one that has engulfed Volkswagen since 2015.

Justice Department officials have been investigating Fiat since the EPA accused Fiat in January of cheating the government’s clean-air rules.

Fiat sold more than 50,000 diesel Rams in 2015 and 2016, a number far outmatching those sold by other competitors in the diesel market. The EPA has yet to approve and certify the company to sell those models this year until Fiat can rig up a fix sufficient to satisfy the Justice Department.

VW has agreed to spend up to $25 billion to address claims from owners and environmental regulators to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. The Fiat lawsuit could eventually bring a close to the German automaker’s scandal.

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