As Volkswagen Finally Pleads Guilty In Dieselgate Scandal, FCA Now in EPA’s Crosshairs For The Same Crime

Yesterday, German automaker Volkswagen finally plead guilty of trying to cheat in U.S. Federal emissions tests by building and selling certain model-year diesel-engined vehicles with a so-called ‘defeat devices’ fitted in them, a please which will see it pay the U.S. Federal Government more than $4.3 billion in penalties.

Less than 24 hours later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — just one Governmental agency which worked hard to prove Volkswagen was acting illegally — has filed a new Notice of Violation against an automaker who it says is using similar test-beating technology on its own diesel-engined vehicles. This time, the offender is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

The EPA has a new target for Dieselgate: FCA.

In its official paperwork detailing the allegations, the EPA says it believes FCA used illegal software emission control systems on nearly 104,000 U.S. market diesel vehicles fitted with FCA’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, including 2014-2016 model year Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. And while the EPA didn’t use the term ‘defeat device’ in its official paperwork, it claims to have found eight auxiliary emissions control devices (AECD) that appear to be acting in such a way as to circumvent Federal emissions standards in specific circumstances.

These eight AECD, so far only found in the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, are essentially software subroutines that appear to have been designed to allow the vehicles in question to pass emissions tests and meet federal standards for Nitrogen Oxides. Not telling the EPA of their existence is illegal, and the EPA wants FCA to explain them and what they do immediately.

Dodge RAM 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees are affected.

In the case of Volkswagen, the ‘defeat devices’, essentially the same thing (software algorithms) were programmed to detect if the car was being driven on a dynamometer (as it might be if its emissions were being examined). If it detected such a situation, these defeat devices set the car’s emissions control system to ensure it met U.S. Federal safety standards for tailpipe emissions at the expense of power and fuel economy. The rest of the time however, the emissions control system was programmed to ignore those standards, emitting more than 400 times the legal limit in order to squeeze a few extra miles per gallon or brake horsepower out.

Despite initially denying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assertions that such a device even existed, Volkswagen eventually admitted that its engineers had purposely programmed the system to behave illegally. Naturally, lower management took most of the flack for doing, claiming that those at a higher level had pushed engineers to come up with an affordable solution to what seemed like an impossible problem — and thus cheating was the only option.

It’s not clear if FCA will take the same approach, but if it does, it’s likely that the EPA will act swiftly to make an example out of FCA as it did Volkswagen.

Since the EPA is waiting on FCA’s responses to various pressing questions on the purpose of the AECDs it detected, it has chosen not to disclose that much information on what i believes is going on in the heart of the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V-6 engines. It did however confirm that even with the AECDs operational, the engines tested at its facilities failed to meet limits set under the Clean Air Act for Nitrogen Oxides.

In response to the official notice of Violation, FCA’s official response was almost defiant in nature, berating the EPA for issuing the notice in the first place.

FCA now has to explain itself to the EPA.

“FCA US is disappointed that the EPA has chosen to issue a notice of violation with respect to the emissions control technology employed in the company’s 2014-16 model year light duty 3.0-liter diesel engines,” the statement reads. “FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR).  Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency. FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.”

But perhaps the most distressing part of the statement indicates that FCA believes the impending change in administration will perhaps give it an advantage over Volkswagen and the hefty fines it has faced in the past eighteen months.

“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 US customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements.”

Given the fact the incoming administration has already talked about easing EPA restrictions (and the incoming administration is heavy on climate-change skeptics and oil-industry executives) we’ll leave you to decide just what that statement means — implicit or explicit.

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  • Surya

    Oh-oh! Here we go again…

    • Martin Lacey

      At this rate the USA will have all the BEV infrastructure it needs, courtesy of unscrupulous ICE manufacturers. YAY!!!!!!!

  • Martin Lacey

    Like I said last year, VWAG were not alone and emissions bypass systems were endemic across manufacturers. BMW and MB have been adapting affected vehicles in the hope of avoiding penalties… have they done enough or are the US legislators saving them for later?

    What of GM and Ford? Or are legislators more interested in foreign manufacturers? Note I said MORE, before I’m accused of some kind of conspiracy theory!

  • Chris Skerry

    So now we have VW, Chrysler-Fiat, and perhaps Renault. I am very curious to know who makes the engine management systems for these cars. I believe Bosch supplies VW. Anyone know about the other two? Perhaps there are more to come. Interesting that Bosch seem to be getting away with it. Or is there a secret deal that we don’t know about?

  • technohead95

    I think a lot more car companies will be caught in due course. Car companies should be given a chance to come clean and admit now. Otherwise the third company should end up paying an extra 10%. Forth company will be 20% etc. Thus it gives them incentive to come clean and save a whole load of time for something they’ll eventually get caught with anyway.

  • CDspeed

    Funny when you think about it, FCA is one of the biggest anti EV brands but when it comes to their diesels they can’t manage without cheating. They’ve just proven that their ICEs, diesels in particular are near death unable to meet regulations going forward.

  • Lawrence Taylor

    I am a battery-head since I am very concerned about the climate. I look regularly on Polar Portal.dk for virtual status of the polar regions, and I have been shocked to see that the Arctic sea ice has been thinning since November. We will probably have a Blue Ocean event in 2017! Nikki says that the weather in Portland is crazy with -11°. Is that F or C. When the Arctic warms up, other areas become colder. This is a direct relation with the fossil fuel lobby/ Big Auto and now they have been caught cheating. Have any executives gone to jail? They are starting to do this in China with polluters, but China seems to be a much more advanced civilization that we have.

  • Sheen

    Or these standards just can not be applied to the current technology. Such a hypocrisy! Really, look how many diesel are for sale now http://www.truck1.eu/ . Maybe it makes sense to make the alternative fuel vehicles affordable and develop the global plan of gradual replacing of diesel? You can’t just forbid someone to use the vehicle he had bought once.