By on September 25, 2019

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel, Image: FCA

A senior manager who led the team of diesel engineers behind Fiat Chrysler’s maligned EcoDiesel V6 has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy to mislead U.S. regulators and the public.

Following an investigation by the Department of Justice, Emanuele Palma, FCA’s senior manager of diesel driveability and emissions, faces multiple charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, and violation of the Clean Air Act. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI and Environmental Protection Agency investigators.

All of this stems from the EPA-led outcry over auxiliary emissions control devices found on the company’s previous-generation 3.0-liter diesel truck engine.

“Emanuele Palma is alleged to have lied to the EPA, impeding its mission,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan in a DOJ release.  “The charges announced today are serious ones, and reflect my office’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the American regulatory system.”

Susan Bodine, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said Palma “is alleged to have knowingly misled EPA regulators to cover up illegal emissions control software installed in certain Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles,” adding, “We are prepared to use our criminal authorities when faced with allegations of lying and cheating to evade U.S. emissions standards.”

In early 2017, the EPA launched a broadside against FCA, claiming its EcoDiesel models contained emissions control devices that were never brought to the agency’s attention. The salvo brought sales of Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesels to a halt, with FCA forced to recall 104,000 vehicles in order to bring their engines into compliance. A new, more powerful, and legal EcoDiesel will be on offer for 2020.

In a settlement reached last year, FCA paid out $185 million for the recall and fix program, $311 million to cover civil penalties, and $19 million for environmental mitigation efforts. The settlement did not, however, allow FCA to sidestep any criminal liability.

From the DOJ:

As alleged in the indictment, Palma led a team of engineers in the United States responsible for developing and calibrating the 3.0-liter diesel engine used in certain FCA diesel vehicles.  Palma supervised the calibration of several software features in the vehicles’ emissions control systems to meet emissions standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx), a family of poisonous gases that are formed when diesel fuels are burned at high temperatures.

The indictment alleges that Palma and his co-conspirators purposefully calibrated the emissions control functions to produce lower NOx emissions under conditions when the subject vehicles would be undergoing testing on the federal test procedures or driving “cycles,” and higher NOx emissions under conditions when the subject vehicles would be driven in the real world.

The emissions manipulation was performed, according to the DOJ, to make the engine “more attractive to FCA’s potential customers, i.e., by increasing fuel economy and reducing the frequency of a required emissions control system service interval, rather than to maximize the reduction of NOx emissions.”

Palma’s co-conspirators have not been charged or named.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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11 Comments on “Senior Fiat Chrysler Manager Charged in EcoDiesel Affair...”

  • avatar

    Still not the dirtiest Emanuele I’ve observed.

  • avatar

    He must not have expected this or I’m guessing he would have bolted for the home country. Detroit paper said they seized his Italian passport.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Initially, I really thought VAG was the only baddie here.

    But this – and the other ongoing investigations – make the diesel mfrs look collusive and/or incompetent when it comes to the technology. You have to wonder if they all knew what the other guys were doing, and simply chose to play the same way. If so, *that’s* the real story here.

    Diesel certainly has its place, but the black eye is only getting worse.

    • 0 avatar

      AFAIK GM (and maybe Ford) hasn’t been caught in this mess. I even recall GM taking its lumps from the automotive press when the last-gen Cruze Diesel came out, and they were derided as having inferior technology because the Cruze needed DEF whereas its main competitor VW Jetta didn’t. Of course we now know why that was, but it would seem GM was trying to build a compliant engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Agreed. Seems to be the European Diesel makers (Wasn’t the EcoDiesel Itallian in origin?).

        There was a certain Austrailian commenter here who chided the US makers for not being competetive with those Euro makers. Guess they should have cheated better.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t believe that other mfgs didn’t figure out what the others were doing. The example of the Jetta not having DEF when others in class did resort to using it would most likely have those who used DEF picking up a Jetta and trying to figure out how they did it.

  • avatar

    I continue to suspect that every passenger car diesel engine since the Euro 5 standard came into effect is cheating and is being sold to the public fraudulently.

    I’ve had a couple people tell me that DPFs and more urea injection for Euro 6 engines have eliminated the need to cheat. I’ll believe it when I see a study, or preferably multiple studies, that measure real-world usage patterns and are not funded by manufacturers.

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