May 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a legal complaint against Fiat Chrysler, alleging that the automaker violated federal emissions laws with “cheat devices” — similar to those discovered last year at Volkswagen.
The Justice Department’s complaint says Fiat Chrysler had the devices installed on about 104,000 3.0-liter EcoDiesel vehicles — including 2014-2016 model year Dodge 1500 Ram trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees.
The complaint, by the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, says the devices, which tell the vehicle to operate at legal levels only during emissions testing, violate the federal Clean Air Act.
“The undisclosed software functions cause the vehicles’ emission control systems to perform differently, and less effectively, during certain normal driving conditions than on federal emission tests, resulting in increased emissions of harmful air pollutants,” the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday.
Volkswagen AG was hit hard last year by similar claims that it also had “defeat devices” installed in a half-million diesel engine vehicles in the United States. The German automaker was subsequently forced to pay billions in fines and restitution to settle the case.
Fiat Chrysler expressed disappointment with the DOJ’s complaint on Tuesday.
“Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US is currently reviewing the complaint, but is disappointed that the DOJ-ENRD has chosen to file this lawsuit,” the automaker said in a statement. “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.”
FCA said it has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency and California air quality officials for months to “clarify issues” related to the affected vehicles. The EPA first alleged discrepancies in Fiat Chrysler’s vehicles in January.
Last week, Fiat Chrysler voluntarily announced it would make modifications to the vehicles’ emissions software in an effort to correct the problem. It also said it has formally filed for diesel certification for 2017 models of the Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee.
“Notwithstanding this lawsuit, the Company remains committed to working cooperatively with EPA and CARB to resolve the agencies’ concerns quickly and amicably,” FCA said.