EPA warned Fiat Chrysler about diesel defeat devices in 2015

June 19, 2017

In February, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' CEO, Sergio Marchionne, warned investors that his company could soon face a Dieselgate crisis of its own.

As it turns out, Marchionne had plenty of time to reach that conclusion. The Environmental Protection Agency met with FCA to express concerns about the company's diesels way back in November 2015--just two months after the world learned that Volkswagen installed defeat devices on 11 million vehicles worldwide, allowing them to cheat on emissions tests. 

The 2015 EPA/FCA meeting was referenced in email acquired late last week by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act. In the email, dated from January 2016, the head of the EPA's Transportation and Air Quality compliance division expressed serious concerns about FCA's slow response to the agency's questions about high levels of nitrogen oxide emission from FCA diesels.

We don't know which diesels were targeted by the EPA during the 2015 face-to-face. The names of the specific models were redacted from the email, though it's been confirmed that they were diesels.

However, it's worth noting that FCA is now the target of two U.S. lawsuits from owners of heavy-duty Ram pickups; a federal lawsuit involving 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 models; and a separate investigation into FCA diesel emissions Europe.

Also damaging, at least to the FCA brand, is the fact that the same researchers who uncovered Volkswagen's defeat devices recently tested FCA diesels and found that some emit up to 20 times the legal limit of pollutants.

FCA disputes the accuracy of the researchers' study and says that it did not intentionally design diesels to cheat on emissions tests. The company also says that it expects upgraded 2017 diesel models to be approved by the EPA any day now. Once they're green-lit, the same software update will be applied to older FCA diesels, bringing them in line with federal emissions regulations.

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