FUMING: The cases date back several years and arose from efforts on the part of FCA to evade emissions requirements for more than 100,000 vehicles.
STELLANTIS has agreed to plead guilty to criminal conduct and pay about $US300 million ($A424.7 million) in penalties to resolve a multi-year emissions fraud probe into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) vehicles with diesel engines, Reutersreported this week.
The cases date back several years and arose from what the report says were efforts on the part of FCA – now part of the Stellantis group – to evade emissions requirements for more than 100,000 older Ram utility models and Jeep SUVs within its US portfolio.
According to Automotive News Europe (ANE), the affected turbodiesel-powered vehicles span the 2014 to 2016 model years.
The plea deal, which was negotiated with officials from the US Justice Department, is set to be released as early as next week. The company would then enter its guilty plea during a subsequent hearing in a US district court.
Negotiations between (then) FCA lawyers and US officials to resolve the current probe “dragged on for years and across presidential administrations as the two sides haggled over whether the company would plead guilty and, if it did, the exact details in any criminal charge”, a source close to the case said.
According to ANE, one of FCA’s employees is preparing to face trial on charges that he misled regulators about pollution from the vehicles targeted in the investigation. Last year, the US Justice Department disclosed charges against two additional FCA employees in the alleged emissions fraud.
An indictment alleges the employees “conspired to install defeat devices in vehicles so they could dupe government emissions tests and then pollute beyond legal limits”.
FCA has previously resolved related civil allegations while denying it deliberately attempted to cheat on emissions tests, the report says.
In 2019, FCA reached a $US800 million ($A1.1 billion) settlement with US federal and state agencies, as well as private class actions, over its alleged diesel-emissions cheating.
The settlement saw approximately $US400 million ($A554 million) allocated to civil penalties, including $US305 million ($A423 million) to settle environmental claims with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Department of Justice (DOJ) and California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Additionally, FCA conducted a recall on all involved Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 variants to address higher-than-expected real-world nitrogen oxide emissions.
These impacted vehicles were fitted with a VM Motori-sourced 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine that received an update to its emission control software.
The Stellantis plea deal comes just five years after Volkswagen Group pleaded guilty to criminal charges to resolve its own emissions scandal. The “Dieselgate” case saw nearly 600,000 vehicles affected by emission defeating software that provided false readings when the vehicles were connected to emissions diagnostic devices.
The case brought into question so-called “clean diesel technology”, which has since been abandoned in favour of petrol-electric hybrid and other electrified drivelines.