The Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler Thursday of using software that enabled some of its diesel trucks to cheat on emissions tests. The company denied those accusations, saying its software meets regulatory requirements.
The vehicles involved were the 2014 to 2016 model year Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0-liter diesel engines. The allegations affect roughly 104,000 vehicles, EPA officials said.
Janet McCabe, head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said “no immediate actions are necessary” for owners of the vehicles targeted under Thursday’s action, and assured owners that those vehicles “continue to be safe and legal to drive.”
The software allowed the vehicles to emit more nitrogen oxide than is allowed under the Clean Air Act, officials said. The scheme was brought to light after the EPA expanded its vehicle testing to look for so-called defeat devices in September 2015 following a similar scandal at Volkswagen.
“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,” Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.
Fiat Chrysler officials denied those claims in a statement Thursday. Every automaker must use “various strategies” to reduce tailpipe emissions without compromising the durability and performance of its engines, FCA said, adding its emission control system complies with necessary requirements.
The company also said it has offered to make extensive changes to its software to address EPA concerns.
“FCA U.S. intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA U.S. customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements,” the company said in a statement.
The news caused Fiat Chrysler’s stock price to drop more than 13 percent in trading Thursday morning.
EPA officials said on a call Thursday that they are looking into whether other automakers may be using similar devices.
“We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices,” Giles said in a statement. “All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”
The agency’s move is similar to the initial steps it took at the start of the German automaker Volkswagen emissions scandal, which eventually lead to about $20 billion in fines and charges against seven employees over the course of the last year and a half. Federal prosecutors announced a settlement that forced Volkswagen to plead guilty to defrauding regulators and consumers, a rare admission of criminal wrongdoing for a large corporation.
“Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught,” California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.”
Advocacy groups were quick to praise the announcement as yet another sign of regulators holding corporations accountable.
“As polluter lobbyists mass at the gates of Congress and the White House, this case underscores the critical importance of keeping the environmental cop on the beat,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “Otherwise, the breathing public could be harmed, and consumers scammed.”
This story is developing.