Sergio Calls EPA Accusation 'Hogwash,' But Here's What It Could Cost FCA
The Environmental Protection Agency calls the emissions control devices found on diesel Jeep and Ram vehicles a “clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act” — something the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles isn’t very happy about.
In their morning announcement, EPA officials claimed the automaker hasn’t done anything to prove the devices found on 2014-2016 EcoDiesel models aren’t regulator-tricking “defeat devices.” According to Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press, Sergio Marchionne is mighty steamed, calling the insinuation of cheating “unadulterated hogwash.”
So, what are these eight auxiliary devices, and what penalty could the automaker face if found in violation of the law?
According to the EPA notice of violation, the devices weren’t mentioned in FCA’s applications for certificates of conformity (COC). The certification allowed FCA to sell the 104,828 affected Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500s in the U.S., each outfitted with a 3.0-liter diesel V6. The company maintains that all of its vehicles meet regulatory requirements.
Unfortunately for FCA, or any other automaker for that matter, conflicts with the EPA never end on “agree to disagree” terms. Testing revealed higher-than-legal amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions from the vehicles, something FCA needs to rectify.
On board the EcoDiesel models are eight auxiliary emission control devices (AECD):
- Full Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Shut-off at Highway Speed
- Reduced EGR with Increasing Vehicle Speed
- EGR Shut-off for Exhaust Valve Cleaning
- Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) Dosing Disablement During Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) Adaptation
- EGR Reduction Due to Modeled Engine Temperature
- SCR Catalyst Warm-up Disablement
- Alternative SRC Dosing Modes
- Use of a Load Governor to Disable Ammonia Refill of SCR Catalyst.
Diesel engines — especially those governed by strong environmental regulations — require a bevy of software and hardware to help manage emissions and optimize efficiency, so the appearance of certain AECDs isn’t shocking, nor is it a crime. The EPA’s beef with FCA arises from several factors, including that the automaker didn’t disclose the devices, all of which “fail to conform…to the vehicle specifications described in the application for the COCs that purportedly cover them.”
That could lead to a fine for each of the vehicles sold.
What’s most eyebrow-raising, however, is that some of the AECDs appear to modify emissions only when undergoing compliance testing. Besides that, the EPA claims that some of the devices, working individually or in combination with others, result in higher-than-allowed emissions when the vehicles are driven in a normal manner.
AECDs are designed to protect the vehicle’s exhaust system under certain conditions — cold weather, for example — which leads to temporary spikes in tailpipe emissions. However, the EPA report claims that two AECDs (number five and six on the list) reduce the emission system’s effectiveness in a way that “does not appear to be justified to protect the vehicle.”
Under U.S. Department of Justice rules, any automaker caught selling a vehicle in violation of Clean Air Act guidelines could face a fine of $44,539 per vehicle. In this case, that puts the potential fine at just over $4.6 billion.
To put that number into perspective, FCA is desperately trying to clear away a roughly $5 billion debt.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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