Justice Department Launches Criminal Investigation Into Fiat Chrysler's Diesel Devices

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Jan 16, 2017

    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?

    • SSJeep SSJeep on Jan 17, 2017

      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...

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Jan 16, 2017

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • OldManPants OldManPants on Jan 17, 2017

      @Lorenzo What a marvelous human nature parable. No good intention goes unabused.

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)