Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is to be investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for software designed to allow diesel vehicles to exceed exhaust emissions limitations.
The investigation follows revelations by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that FCA used hidden software to allow excess exhaust emissions from its diesel engines to go undetected.
However FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has told reporters the software did not replicate the outlawed Volkswagen Group software which enabled its vehicles to meet emissions requirements while being tested in laboratories but then exceed them (with associated performance advantages) while being driven on the road.
Both FCA and Volkswagen use software supplied by Robert Bosch GmbH.
The EPA probe was launched on the back of Volkswagen’s $US23 billion ‘dieselgate’ scandal and the EPA claimed FCA did not disclose the software which was fitted to 104,000 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks fitted with 3.0-litre diesel engines and sold through dealerships in North America.
At this stage the EPA has not decided whether to call the FCA software ‘defeat devices’ - the term used in the Volkswagen Group investigation.
Last week Volkswagen agreed to pay $US4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines in North America. Some say dieselgate will eventually cost the German giant $US23 billion.
With fewer numbers of vehicles under the microscope than the 580,000 Volkswagen diesels, FCA could face a maximum fine of $US4.6 billion ($US44,539 per vehicle) but newsagencies say the outcome is not certain as this will be one of the first major cases for new Trump administration EPA chief General Scott Pruitt and he has previously been critical of some EPA regulations.
In a statement, FCA said: “FCA US intends to work with the inkling 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”.