Is Fiat Chrysler headed for a VW-style car wreck?
With the US accounting for almost half of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global sales, the pressure is well and truly on for the car giant to disprove deliberate emissions cheating and avoid a destructive press barrage.
Although the EPA hasn’t alleged the existence of an illegal defeat device, the tale unfolding is reminiscent of the Volkswagen (VW) emissions scandal.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused Fiat Chrysler of violating the US Clean Air Act.
The Act demands that any software installed in a vehicle, enabling emission controls to be turned off, must be declared and certified.
The controversy surrounds software known as an Auxiliary Emission Control Device (AECD). In simple terms, the software switches off emission control in certain conditions such as freezing weather.
Car manufacturers have to declare AECDs and illustrate how they comply with emission standards.
In a stroke of car manufacturing evil genius, VW’s AECD’s were programmed to only switch on when being tested by the EPA. Fiat Chrysler’s case is different because instead, they simply didn’t declare 104,000 Cherokees and Dodge Ram Trucks.
Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler’s Chief Exectuive, is adamantly denying guilt: ‘there was nothing that was designed to defeat the testing process’.
Ex-EPA Official, John German admits that although Fiat Chrysler’s emissions were higher in the ‘real world’ than during testing, they were not entirely turned off as was the case with VW’s AECDs.
The investigation into Fiat Chrysler has been on-going for 18 months – cynics assume that Fiat Chrysler have been delaying the process, hoping for the soft touch of the Trump administration.
Had Obama’s team not pushed this matter, Trump’s EPA (led by climate change sceptic, Scott Pruitt) may have dropped the allegations and it would be back to business as usual for Fiat Chrysler.
General consensus is that fines incurred by Fiat Chrysler as a result of this enquiry are unlikely to come close to the $21bn paid out by VW. However, the EPA has already suggested a hefty fine of $4.6bn and civil claims by car owners may come flooding in.
Let’s hope Fiat Chrysler have no more surprises hidden up their exhaust pipe.