Just as the dust starts to settle on Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused Fiat Chrysler of using similar methods to illegally manipulate the pollution levels in hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles.
The regulator issued a notice of violation to the carmaker, citing undeclared emissions control software in 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 diesel vehicles sold since 2014. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who are both investigating US diesel engines in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, said that the software allowed vehicles to emit more nitrogen oxides than is allowed under the Clean Air Act.
US automakers are required by law to disclose any software that impacts emissions. The EPA is also investigating whether the software constitutes an illegal “defeat device” that manipulates emissions to be lower when regulatory testing is underway. If found guilty, the carmaker may be subject to billions of dollars in fines.
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” said CARB chair Mary D. Nichols.
The allegations come a day after Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines and plead guilty to criminal charges for misleading regulators and selling polluting vehicles. The regulator began testing US diesel vehicles in 2015, when the Volkswagen scandal first broke, which eventually led to the charges against Fiat Chrysler.
Fiat Chrysler officials denied the allegations in a statement on Thursday, saying they were “disappointed” with the EPA and their emissions control software were “properly justified and thus are not ‘defeat devices’ under applicable regulations.” The company’s Italian- and US-listed shares crashed by about 15% following the EPA announcement.
The EPA said that it is continuing its investigation, which could expand to include other automakers. “All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage,” said the EPA’s Cynthia Giles.