Academic researchers on both sides of the Atlantic separately said this week that they found that Fiat Chrysler's diesel vehicles had suspiciously high pollution levels and that there was evidence the company had used a so-called defeat device, software meant to allow a vehicle to pass official emissions tests while polluting more when driven on the highway.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is seeking federal approval for new software for its diesel 2017 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 vehicles that is says can also address regulators' concerns about its 2014-2016 versions of the cars that have been under the microscope for most of the year.
Fiat Chrysler said it believes its application and proposed software fix, "should help facilitate a prompt resolution to ongoing discussions with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and other governmental agencies". But FCA says any litigation would be "counterproductive" to its talks with the EPA. The company plans to make the same modification to the emissions-control software in those model-year vehicles that it's applied to deploy for 2017 vehicles, if regulators approve.
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Earlier in the month, FCA filed a motion to dismiss the emissions lawsuit that claims Dodge Ram trucks emit illegal levels of nitrogen oxides; FCA allegedly covered this up with the use of "defeat devices" during emissions testing.
FCA's diesels have also been the subject of attention in Europe.
Volkswagen was forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties after the German company admitted to programming its diesel cars to trick emissions testers into believing the engines released far less pollution into the air than they actually do, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. An EPA spokeswoman said on Thursday that the agency does not comment on vehicles before they are introduced into commerce. The agency also stopped FCA from certifying its 2017 3.0-liter diesel model. Eventually the German automaker paid more than $22 billion in legal settlements and fines stemming from the cheating.
The Auburn Hills, Michigan, company said that if its application is approved by the agencies, vehicle owners would be able to get the software updates at their dealerships, but did not give a time frame. The brand has been involved closely with the EPA and CARB to clarify exactly how its emissions control software works and has developed a fix it thinks will be satisfactory.