Washington – Fiat Chrysler on Thursday agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars, including a $ 300 million fine to the US government, to settle charges that the Italian-American automaker cheated on emissions tests. .
As part of an agreement with the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, the automaker will recall and repair more than 104,000 non-compliant Jeep SUVs and Ram vans.
Separately, Fiat Chrysler has also agreed to pay $ 280 million to settle lawsuits filed by vehicle owners, resulting in payments of about $ 2,800 per owner. – and it will pay $ 19 million to California to settle similar regulatory claims.
Federal officials said the vehicles, built between 2014 and 2016, were equipped with diesel engines programmed to control pollution during laboratory tests that would shut down under certain conditions on the road.
"Serious and flagrant"
"By concealing this software, Fiat Chrysler has cheated regulators and violated environmental law," said Deputy Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. "Fiat Chrysler's driving was serious and flagrant. Its deception deprived the public of clean air, we work hard to protect and put law-abiding competitors at a disadvantage. "
Fiat Chrysler claimed that it had deliberately failed to deceive the emission tests, and that the company had not admitted any misdeeds.
"We recognize that this has created uncertainty for our customers, and we believe this resolution will allow us to continue to trust us," said Mark Chernoby, North American safety and regulatory compliance manager, in a statement. .
In the third quarter of last year, Fiat Chrysler, also known as FCA, had incurred a $ 810 million charge to meet the potential costs of US diesel emissions, thereby reducing profits. of the society.
Under this agreement, Fiat Chrysler may be subject to additional penalties if at least 85% of the vehicles are not repaired within two years.
Follows the VW diesel regulation
The settlement is the second agreement between the US government and a builder on charges of fraud on diesel emissions.
In 2016, Volkswagen pled guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay a $ 2.8 billion fine to settle the lawsuits filed by the government. The company has also agreed to buy back vehicles, repair others, pay to mitigate environmental damage and settle lawsuits for a cost of more than $ 30 billion. About 500,000 VW vehicles were involved in the cheating scandal in the United States.
The Ministry of Justice has also opened a criminal investigation into the conduct of Fiat Chrysler and several state attorneys general have also opened an investigation. The settlement with Fiat Chrysler does not resolve any criminal allegations, according to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. He declined to comment when he was asked about the state of progress of the investigation.
Asked about the message the regulation would send, Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler responded, "Do not cheat".