Call it Dieselgate II.
In a settlement announced Thursday by federal officials and states, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles agreed to pay $ 800 million for the global automaker to use "cheat software" in thousands of diesel vehicles to cheat during testing of atmospheric pollution.
The case is similar to Volkswagen's multi-billion dollar settlement over the use of malicious software – and was discovered through improved testing procedures developed by federal and state officials after the discovery of the malware. Volkswagen scandal by federal and Californian officials in 2015.
"Although the company admitted to using the device of defeat, she claimed that it was something unexpected," said Mary Nichols, president of the California Air Resources Board, at a news conference. conference call with reporters. "We do not agree with that and the regulations show that they recognize that they are responsible."
Digital access for only $ 0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, sign up today.
The case concerns diesel engines Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 manufactured from 2014 to 2016. The state said that Fiat Chrysler had sold 100,000 of these vehicles in the country and 13,325 in California.
"Not only has society violated the law and our trust, but it has done so to the detriment of our environment," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "These vehicles have been marketed to consumers as environmentally friendly." California officials initially accused Fiat Chrysler of cheating during diesel testing in 2017.
Fiat Chrysler has announced plans to spend about $ 800 million on the charges, including a $ 400 million fine for the federal and 50 states. California, which has collaborated with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the search for illegal software, will receive $ 78.4 million.
The company also settled a private class action lawsuit aimed at giving car owners an average of $ 2,800 each, for a total of about $ 280 million. In addition, Fiat Chrysler must implement a recall program, repair the emission control systems of the affected vehicles and provide these customers with an extended warranty. Guarantees are expected to cost around $ 100 million, for a total payment of about $ 800 million from Fiat Chrysler.
Robert Bosch, a German manufacturer of diesel engine components Fiat Chrysler, has also agreed to pay $ 27 million to consumers, according to Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, the law firm in charge of the class action.
Fiat Chrysler stated that the regulations "do not change the company's position that it has not initiated a deliberate program to install override devices to deceive emission testing." However, she said she needed to regain consumer confidence.
"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. .
The Trump administration, accused by environmentalists of acting in favor of polluters, hailed the Fiat Chrysler case as evidence to the contrary. "Today's regulations send a clear and strong message to manufacturers and consumers: the Trump administration will vigorously enforce the country's laws designed to protect the environment and public health," said Andrew Wheeler, director of interim EPA.
The Volkswagen regulations included an agreement entered into by the company to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in California on electric vehicle charging stations and other clean vehicle projects in Sacramento and in other cities, so to compensate for excessive nitrogen oxide emissions fouling the air. . NOx is a key ingredient in smog formation.
Fiat Chrysler will not be forced to undertake a similar program, officials said. The big difference: the Volkswagen software was so deeply embedded in the vehicles that most cars could not be fully repaired. Fiat Chrysler vehicles are fully serviceable.
The "Checking Device" was used to cheat the air pollution certification tests required by the regulators prior to the sale of the vehicles. Essentially, the software disables emission control systems when vehicles are on the road, but remain fully engaged once in the test lab. Emissions control can hinder fuel consumption and the longevity and maneuverability of the vehicle.
Nichols said that checking software is allowed in limited circumstances – for example when a vehicle climbs a steep hill – but must be disclosed to regulators.
"The basic cheat here is that the company did not reveal what it was doing with this software," Nichols said. "It's illegal and all these companies know it's illegal."