DETROIT (CN) – The Department of Justice filed a federal complaint Tuesday against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, accusing the automaker and its subsidiaries of selling diesel-powered vehicles that circumvented emissions standards with the help of computer technology.
The lawsuit claims that between 2013 and 2016, FCA sold more than 100,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500s with EcoDiesel V-6 engines based on false emissions data generated by software that was not disclosed in applications for certificates of conformity.
“[O]ne or more of these undisclosed software features, alone or in combination with one or more of the others, bypass, defeat and/or render inoperative the subject vehicles’ emission control system, causing the vehicles to emit substantially higher levels of [nitrogen oxides, or NOx] during certain normal real world driving conditions than during federal emission tests,” the complaint states.
The allegations echo those leveled against Volkswagen, whose now notorious diesel engines were also able to detect testing and drop emissions to acceptable levels.
“NOx pollution contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, exposure to which is linked to a number of respiratory- and cardiovascular-related health effects as well as premature death,” Tuesday’s lawsuit states. “Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health effects related to smog or soot exposure. Nitrogen dioxide formed by NOx emissions can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and may also contribute to asthma development in children.”
Some of FCA’s software allegedly disabled emissions controls in certain driving situations to improve performance, including a full shut off of emissions restraints during highway driving and reduced controls during brisk acceleration.
FCA said in a statement that it is reviewing the lawsuit but is “disappointed” that the Justice Department filed it.
“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 statement reads.
The Justice Department seeks to prevent the sale of any other non-conforming vehicles, and assess a $37,500 fine on each vehicle produced and sold from 2009 to 2015 and $45,268 for each car sold after November 2015.
The lawsuit – filed by Daniel Lemisch, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan – also names V.M. Motori S.P.A. and V.M. North America Inc. as defendants.