US investigators say they uncovered “at least eight” secret features in the computers of Fiat-Chrysler vehicles that basically turn off the cars’ emission-control systems after they pass government tests. Now, the US Department of Justice is suing the company for violating the Clean Air Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday (May 23).
Nearly 104,000 diesel cars—all Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 2014, 2015, and 2016—were sold with “defeat-device” software, the EPA said. Their 3.0 liter “EcoDiesel” engines may not have been so “eco” after all.
For comparison, Volkswagen was accused of selling 482,000 cars equipped with emissions-cheating defeat devices in the US.
The software in the Fiat-Chrysler vehicles allow the cars to “meet emission standards in the laboratory and during standard EPA testing,” but then proceed to emit levels of noxious nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution “much higher than the EPA-compliant level” once on the road, the EPA said in a press release.
In Germany, Fiat-Chrysler has already been accused of timing cars to emit test-passing levels of emissions for exactly 22 minutes—just two minutes longer than the German certification test lasts—before shutting off emissions controls and reverting to illegal emissions.
The growing epidemic of car companies accused of cheating on emissions standards has caused researchers to revise their estimates of global NOx pollution from diesel vehicles. They now believe those emissions are 50% higher than governments assume based on certification tests. Researchers calculate that would cause an additional 38,000 people to die early from air pollution exposure each year.