Sergio Calls EPA Accusation 'Hogwash,' But Here's What It Could Cost FCA

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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):

  1. Full Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Shut-off at Highway Speed
  2. Reduced EGR with Increasing Vehicle Speed
  3. EGR Shut-off for Exhaust Valve Cleaning
  4. Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) Dosing Disablement During Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) Adaptation
  5. EGR Reduction Due to Modeled Engine Temperature
  6. SCR Catalyst Warm-up Disablement
  7. Alternative SRC Dosing Modes
  8. Use of a Load Governor to Disable Ammonia Refill of SCR Catalyst.

Fun stuff!

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]

Join the conversation
5 of 106 comments
  • Tresmonos Tresmonos on Jan 13, 2017

    My friends are telling me the calibration was done by VM Motori. Also mentioned something about rules change. Something about as launched in production the rules were FTP pass = good to go. Now it's a different criteria. He did mention several of the functions listed are for other EPA requirements. So hardware = Bosch, Cal = VM. FCA was just program management / customer.

    • See 2 previous
    • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Jan 13, 2017

      What does the acronym "FTP" mean in this case? Even if VM Motori did the programming, VM is wholly owned by FCA so that doesn't really deflect the responsibility much. I also presume FCA applied for the COC, so it's their name on the dotted line. Hopefully FCA/VM can show that this is just a documentation issue and these operating modes (AECDs) are reasonable and necessary.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jan 13, 2017

    The juice just isn't worth the squeeze anymore for diesels in this class of vehicle in the US. Leave the diesels for the working rigs. Given the complicated emissions, high initial cost compared to gas, and increased maintenance requirements as well as more expensive fuel in many parts of the world these vehicles make sense for a small niche of folks and it is a shrinking one.

  • El Kevarino If you have an EV platform that supports dual motor AWD, then why choose FWD for the 2WD version?
  • Analoggrotto Try as they may and as they might but the future of Electric, the future of human reality is TESLA. Only the highest level of affluence, priviledge and wealth can earn one a place in the stars. In fact when you look at the night's sky do you notice that the stars are brighter? This is because of Supreme Wizard Elon Musk, who has brightened them with this awesome grace.
  • Dukeisduke Sixty-five miles of range added in ten minutes? Doesn't sound very impressive.Also, how are they going to build these in volume if GM is building Ultium packs by hand (which they have been, slowly)? Or are the packs coming from Korea?
  • Dave M. On one hand Honda tends to make a strong, competitive product that should give you years of excellent service. On the other hand it's built on the bones of a GM product, who has a tendency to underbake their products until right before cancellation. NUMMI worked out well for GM; I wonder if this will work out well for Honda....
  • RICHARD @mebgardner I have no issues with the way the car is configured. No offensive nannies.