GM Lawsuits

Fiat Chrysler Nears Plea Deal In U.S. Emissions Fraud Probe

It has been reported that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is nearing an agreement to plead guilty to criminal conduct for evading emission requirements surrounding Ram pickup trucks and Jeep sport-utility vehicles with diesel engines. Reuters reports that a source estimates the penalty may run between $250 million and $300 million dollars.

The report states that FCA employees installed or conspired to install illegal software in certain diesel-equipped vehicles and deceive government emission testing, allowing them to pollute beyond legal parameters without detection. In many cases, this could allow the vehicle to perform better, without being constrained as much as competitors in the same class.

Some time ago, The NHTSA also opened an investigation into nearly 605,000 heavy-duty Ram trucks all of which use 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engines. Complaints revolve around loss of motive power, with most incidents occurring above 25 mph and resulting in the “permanent disablement of the vehicle.” Vehicles under suspicion include all Ram 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 HD pickups from 2019-2020 Model Year.

Back In the emissions fraud case, the fraudulent upgrades were detected in Jeep and Ram trucks equipped with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engines. Earlier reports indicate that 100,000 EcoDiesel models — namely the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 — allegedly evaded emissions requirements.

Right now, representatives of both FCA and the Justice Department declined to comment, however, 3 FCA employees have been arrested in this case and will stand trial in 2022. Furthermore, FCA already agrees to pay approximately $800 million to settle civil litigation on top of legal fees, smaller settlements, and potential sales losses as the emissions scandal wore on.

A plea agreement would cap a series of investigations dating back to 2015 surrounding diesel-powered vehicles in FCA’s U.S. lineup. This investigation is only targeting the U.S unit of the Italian-American automaker vehicles spanning model years 2014 to 2016.

Due to these emission cheating scandals; people’s interest is shifting to electric vehicles. The European automakers had promoted “clean diesel” technology but this incident uncovered that diesel vehicles polluted far more in real-world driving. Now, automakers are accelerating electric vehicle development to comply with tougher, post-Dieselgate pollution standards.

The FCA discussions are heating up as one of its employees prepares to face trial next year conspired to install illegal software about pollution from the vehicles and continued the deception even after officials caught Volkswagen cheating on government emissions tests. In April, the Justice Department unveiled charges against two additional FCA employees in the alleged emissions fraud. Italian authorities arrested one of the two additional employees in September.

FCA has previously resolved related civil allegations while denying cheating on emissions tests. Other legal troubles have also dogged the automaker. In March, the company pleaded guilty to violating U.S. labor law, admitting it conspired to make illegal payments to union officials.

In the emissions probe, the criminal case against FCA is expected to track closely with one against Volkswagen that the Justice Department unveiled in 2017, the people said. Volkswagen admitted to cheating on government emissions tests with diesel-powered vehicles, in the process misleading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and customers. The German automaker pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act.

Volkswagen agreed to pay $2.8 billion to resolve that criminal case and billions of dollars more to settle Justice Department civil allegations and lawsuits from vehicle owners and state officials. FCA, spoke with senior Justice Department officials in recent months to push back against a demand that the company pleads guilty, the people familiar with the matter said.

Justice Department officials rejected FCA’s request for the more lenient treatment.

In talks with U.S. prosecutors, FCA has emphasized the automaker’s January 2019 agreement to pay roughly $800 million to settle civil litigation brought by the Justice Department, state officials, and consumers alleging the company’s vehicles evaded emissions requirements, one of the people said.

Separately, FCA this year resolved legal claims from customers who opted out of the earlier settlement with consumers, according to court records.

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