The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against automaker Fiat Chrysler for allegedly building vehicles that bypassed federal emissions standards. The lawsuit alleges that the automaker placed undeclared “defeat devices” in 2014-2016 diesel vehicles to circumvent emission testing.
A “defeat device” is any motor vehicle hardware, software, or design that interferes with or disables emissions controls under real-world driving conditions, even if the vehicle passes formal emissions testing.
The lawsuit comes after Fiat Chrysler CEP Sergio Marchionne accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “smoking illegal material” for accusing the automaker of purposefully and knowingly violating emission standards that are in place. Negotiations took place between Fiat Chrysler, the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board, but in the end they failed to prevent legal action.
Fiat Chrysler said that they would fight the charges and that they were “disappointed” in the lawsuit.
“The company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” the company said in a statement.
This is not the first time that a car company has gotten into trouble with the U.S. government for attempting to bypass federal emissions standards. Earlier this year German automaker Volkswagen was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $4.3 billion dollars for writing software to defeat emission testing in 580,000 vehicles that were sold in the United States. Volkswagen pleaded guilty to fraud, falsifying statements and obstruction of justice.
As for Fiat Chrysler, late last week the company said that it will install updated emission software on all of the affected models. The company “believes this will address the agencies’ concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles,” the company said in a statement. This proved to be too little too late, as the EPA filed charges against Fiat Chrysler after their software update announcement was made.
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