By on January 14, 2017

2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles started off the week in solid form. It deftly preempted the Detroit auto show by unveiling its futuristic Portal minivan concept at the youthful Consumer Electronics Show a week prior, then dangled a big Mopar tease in front of enthusiasts with its yet-to-be-revealed SRT Hellcat Demon variants of the Dodge Charger and Challenger.

Then, just like that, the Environmental Protection Agency held a media conference and FCA found its legs kicked out from under it. After Thursday’s accusation of emissions violations (via eight undeclared emissions control devices found on 3.0-liter EcoDiesel models), the automaker finds itself playing defense as controversy grows.

As the EPA’s investigation continues, the U.S. Department of Justice has now opened a criminal probe.

According to Bloomberg, the Justice Department wants to know why FCA didn’t tell the EPA about the devices during the certification process. The regulator claims the engines, found in 104,000 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles, emit illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide, and appear to operate in a leaner way only when undergoing emissions testing. If found in violation of the Clean Air Act, FCA could be on the hook for $4.6 billion in fines.

Forget checkered flags — this week was all about the red variety at FCA. Unfortunately for the automaker, it all comes during a week where six indictments fell on the heads of Volkswagen executives involved in that company’s diesel scandal.

The Bloomberg report claims FCA used emissions technology sourced from Robert Bosch GmbH — a supplier that provided software to Volkswagen for use on its illegal diesels. Bosch is under investigation for its role in that case.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne was quick out of the gate to deny the accusations, calling them “unadulterated hogwash,” but it didn’t stop the company’s stock — which was steadily on the rise — from taking a sharp dip. The company’s stock sat at $11.09 a share before the EPA revelation, but closed trading at $9.73 yesterday.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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58 Comments on “Justice Department Launches Criminal Investigation into Fiat Chrysler’s Diesel Devices...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    Thought I heard the Dragnet theme playing just a bit ago.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    We haven’t seen the last of these kinds of revelations by a long shot.

    Now I understand why Honda pulled their planned US market diesel several years ago. Maybe there isn’t a way to make a diesel passenger vehicle which actually meets emissions standards in normal use ???

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yes there is. it’s just not something you can do on the cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Personally I believe that was the point of the standards in the first place. To make it infeasible or flat impossible to meet emissions standards in normal use. Or at least make it so that it performs unacceptably when doing so.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        conspiracy theory rubbish. All the 2008 standards said was that diesels no longer got a free pass, they had to meet the same standards as gas engines.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          All these folk need to do is keep raising their standards/bar to make autos increasingly unaffordable so that they can force their autopian dreams of mass transit in metros, bicycles, high-speed rail, sun-powered gliders (okay, just kidding on the last one), etc. on the populace. Truth be told, the predominant type of people who work in these bureaucracies would ban gasoline or diesel powered cars and trucks if they could get away with it.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            New cars are as affordable as ever, except that now are much more durable and last a lot longer. We’ve never had higher new car sales or a larger fleet in our nation’s history. So this entire line of thought is without evidence to support it.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            “Just about the time most of us were finally clearing our refrigerators of Thanksgiving leftovers, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York began waving the Big Red Flag of Caution with regard to auto loans.

            That’s because the delinquency rates on so-called subprime financing — loans to the riskiest borrowers – hit their highest levels since 2010 during the third quarter of 2016. That follows 10 consecutive quarters of rising percentages of loans made to those borrowers, who have FICO credit scores below 620, falling into 90-day delinquency.

            Not surprisingly this prompted industry observers to caution that a new credit crisis is likely looming on the automotive horizon that could derail what are still-healthy new-car sales, and perhaps adversely affect the economy at large (though hardly with the same magnitude as the mortgage industry collapse mustered at the onset of the Great Recession)…

            Perhaps a greater threat to the auto industry is the fact that new cars are being priced out of the reach of so many consumers. With the median U.S. household income standing at $57,616, it’s tough for the average Joe or Jane to buy a new vehicle that sells for an average of around $31,000 without some financial sleight of hand.

            As a result, consumers with both high and low credit ratings are borrowing more money to purchase what are increasingly expensive rides. According to Experian, the average new vehicle loan amount jumped from to $28,936 to $30,022 over the past year, with consumers extending their financing terms to unprecedented lengths. The average loan period stands at a record 68 months, with many buyers taking out loans for as long as 84 months, which means a vehicle purchased this week wouldn’t be paid off until December 2024. That’s leaving an increasing number of borrowers “underwater,” meaning they owe more money on their vehicles than they’re worth. According to Edmunds.com, an estimated 32 percent of all trade-ins toward the purchase of a new car through the first nine months of 2016 were underwater.”

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2016/12/07/why-the-auto-financing-bubble-is-really-an-affordability-issue/

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Your source only indicates there are a lot of subprime and long term auto loans. It does nothing to refute my points or advance your own.

            You really need to do better, here, GM. Maybe take a debating class at the local community college?

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            “Perhaps a greater threat to the auto industry is the fact that new cars are being priced out of the reach of so many consumers. ”

            You wrote that “new cars are as affordable as ever”. Second to last paragraph of what was quoted refutes that. One of the contributors of the price increase is the manufacturers struggling to meet these increasingly stricter emission (I’d add and safety, to that) standards.

            How about less of the victory-mincing insults and better reading comprehension, vogo.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      It can be done, but it doesn’t lend itself to shortcuts. IMO, most of FCA’s troubles will come down to insufficient documentation of the AECDs, and differences of interpretation.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “We haven’t seen the last of these kinds of revelations by a long shot.”

      Agree! When the VW diesel-scam first broke there were plenty of comments by individuals better connected to this industry that forecast that more, if not every, automaker offering a diesel would suffer the same fate.

      And that proved true.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @highdesertcat
        What about Direct Injection( Petrol) Gas engines? Particulate spewing on a large scale/ Co2 and CO emissions. I think the Europeans are more down on these. I have heard rumours, that another “Mitsubishi type scenario”, is. not far away.
        A US Company is in the firing line

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I’m not highdesertcat, and I don’t play him on TV, but the problem with direct injection seems to be higher oxides of nitrogen emissions. Automakers are combining DI in smaller displacement engines with turbochargers to reduce total emissions. They’re apparently meeting the standards, but Americans may have to get used to tiny engines they’ll have to drive more sedately to keep the turbo from kicking in and reducing fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Thank you Lorenzo. Your reply is my sentiment as well.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Lorenzo
            Too make it easier for diesels too meet regulations Automakers are making Diesels bigger. They find reducucing the size of diesels is a recipe for non compliance.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The point of diesels in cars was they were totally emissions exempt. The free ride couldn’t last forever, so would someone please remind me what’s the point now?

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        The point is that they let automakers reach the new higher MPG targets without using scarily small engines and/or relatively expensive hybrid technology. Which may have made some at the EPA go “whoops!”

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Sure but what’s in it for consumers? Especially if they expect to keep them after the warranty expires.

          Diesels weren’t designed for so much emissions hardware. Big rigs, heavy equipment and trains can deal with the emissions when forced to, they have no real/viable alternative (yet), but with cars, especially compacts, isn’t easier to just kill the concept, or avoiding diesels(consumers and automakers) vs dealing with diesel emissions?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            “Sure but what’s in it for consumers? Especially if they expect to keep them after the warranty expires.”

            Guess that isn’t the EPA’s problem.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            No doubt. The EPA only looks out for itself, same as anyone.

            Except they’re not deliberately trying to kill off diesels in compacts. It’s their own undoing. The physics/economics just aren’t there presently, for compacts with diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      The law of diminishing returns… Except for the shakedown artists.

  • avatar
    Highway Cruiser

    likely there are so many reasons to talk s..t about Chrysler automobiles by various haters, show must go on

  • avatar
    nvinen

    I don’t like cars with diesel engines but this seems like a witch hunt to me. They may have failed to disclose these devices but I doubt they were purposefully trying to hide anything. And the standards they were required to meet do not seem to have any sort of scientific basis.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Had to get the “witchhunt” — valid or not — started before this coming Friday!

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Yep, just another shakedown. A housecleaning is in order.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Let me get this straight. The EPA and CARB force foreign automakers to pay billions of dollars to America for polluting our air. And they arrange for the least fuel efficient automakers to buy credits from American automakers that build in America, like Tesla.

          And this is what you want Trump to put a stop to immediately?

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @VoGo
            You will find a lot of the local US Companies, doing their fair share of polluting the US. LA does not have hills that disappear after 5pm, because of diesels. Total pollution is the issue and the US has a staggering amount

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            RobertRyan,
            I completely agree. It would be a pity if America were to allow the EPA to be gutted, but we’ve rolled the dice, and now we’ll get what we get.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            House-cleaning and depolitization does not equate to “gutting”.

            Nice straw man, though.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            VoGo, most of the fans of the Orange Duce have no idea that citizens can sue to have laws enforced. They’ll cry like little girls when the Government is sued to keep clean air/water standards in affect. They’ll have triple brain hemorrhages and conniption fits when they find out the detested EPA “bureaucrats” will enforce these court mandated laws.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If LA had a high percentage diesels running wild and emissions exempt, it would have smog levels rivaling London, Hong Kong, Paris, Shanghai, etc, where flights are routinely canceled solely on limited visibility, thanks to horrible smog levels. That hasn’t happened in LA ever.

            The distant mountain ranges of the LA Basin do disappear on a handful of bad smog days, but you’re still talking some 25 miles of visibility.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          GM, exactly how deep and how far does this housecleaning go? Do you have acceptable reasons behind this “housecleaning”? Those in charge have proteges and people working for them. How does this “house cleaning” work, exactly? A masturbatory tweet does not equal to the running of the government.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      If they know they’re required to disclose everything, and they don’t disclose these eight (8!) devices, then yes, by definition they were hiding them. And a shipload of people with far more PhDs among them than you and I determine the scientific basis; the fact you’re unaware of that basis or unmotivated to learn about it doesn’t negate its existence. I don’t mean to be harsh or rude, we’re all friends here; it just comes off like you’re making excuses for rotten behavior.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @Steph Willems
    Should have a ” RAM Deathwatch” That should be fun. Then an article on who is criminally liable. You are pretty good at keeping us up to date

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A $4.6b fine? That might just sink FCA. How many EcoDiesel trucks have they sold? I’ve only seen maybe five or six, and this in Texas, where you see tons of diesel pickups.

    I’m wondering how much per vehicle sold this amounts to.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Back off, stupid government!

    Ram makes the last beautiful trucks we’ll ever get.

  • avatar

    Even the President-erect must notice that the EPA has an ‘interesting business model’. A couple of billion from VW, now perhaps a couple of billion from FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Shakedown Street

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        How exactly is this a shakedown, but pressuring companies to retain/onshore manufacturing jobs in the US is not?

        Just curious.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @VoGo
          Whole US industry could go under, if massive disruption to supply chains is the result of Trump/ EPA disruption.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, because while everyone THINKS they know what Trump is going to do, no one really knows. His tweets and statements have been so contradictory, and so often contradicted by those who claim to speak for him, that we truly have no clue what he will do.

            In uncertain times, businesses tend to hold back on investments, and consumers hold back on large purchases. Which can have a snowball effect on the economy.

            We are starting to hear about parking lots full of new cars that cannot be sold, and dealers desperate to move the metal, no matter the profit or loss. There’s a reason.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Well, the EPA made an accusation that several “devices” weren’t declared, and ventured the OPINION (since no data/research was supplied) that there might be deception involved, and now, based only on a so far unsubstantiated EPA accusation, the Justice Department begins a CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION. That sounds like government agency piling-on to me.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Lorenzo,
            That’s not so much piling on as how the federal government divides responsibilities.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            VoGo, it is not the responsibility of the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation before all the facts are presented. To investigate a crime, a crime has to have been committed, and other than a failure to declare sensors/”devices”, EPA hasn’t provided conclusive evidence of an emissions violation yet, much less a crime.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    I don’t think the PEOTUS will abuse his presidential powers. Stop acting like you’re in occupied France.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “I don’t think the PEOTUS will abuse his presidential powers.”

      Seriously. He’d no more do that than he ever used his wealth and celebrity to abuse women.

      Whiny-ass Hillary losers just can’t stop crying.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Wait! Wait! What about the neckbeard hipsters and their 300K mile 300d’s? Think of the humanity with them driving around in Prii

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They would have switched to Tesla, except there’s no off-street parking at their loft apartments, and they can’t afford a Tesla (the 300D was a hand-me-down), and electricity is expensive, man. They’re holding onto the 300D because diesel is now cheaper than gas in many places, they’re mostly manuals so thieves can’t drive them, and they would hear the engine running in their fifth floor lofts anyway.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Why doesn’t the EPA test these turbo gas engines under normal use?

    I think you’ll they are spewing more particlates, noxious gases and CO2 than any EPA test standard.

    I’d like to see two vehicles of similar capability, say a 5.7 Hemi and VM diesel Ram put under the same loads/conditions driven together say around a major urban centre, some highway driving traversing a few hills and mountains monitored with readings and times giving info on how much real life difference there is between the 2 comparable vehicles.

    Don’t use new vehicles, use vehicle with 20k on them as the should be oprrating near their optimum by then.

    Can TTAC organise this?

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      BAFO – they have done particulate and CO2 emissions on most engines in the US. The HEMI did not exceed any emission parameters in city or highway driving… The diesel oversights are due to NOx, which had not been part of the original testing setup for DEF equipped vehicles…

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Bosch will not emerge unscathed. VW throwing itself on the sword may have bought them some time, but … you can’t sell dirty bombs to terrorists and claim you didn’t know what they would do with them. Well, you can, it just doesn’t keep you out of FITB prison with a cell mate who’s daughter died from asthma related causes.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Bosch will get away scot-free, since they’re a supplier just following the specs. They don’t do the programming. Consider, California tried to replace steel guard rail with safer, softer aluminum, and crews would strip the railing off the posts and take them to recyclers.

      Those recyclers knew full well the railings were stolen, and the state agency (Caltrans) does its own recycling, but they got off receiving stolen railing because it was bent to be unusable by the thieves, and aluminum guard railing is used by some private companies on private property (where it’s harder to steal).

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