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FCA, Now Stellantis, Employees Allegedly Tried to Cheat EcoDiesel Emissions

Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ scandal has had a profound effect on the entire automotive industry. Diesel cars and trucks are still around, of course, but they and other ICE cars are under even greater scrutiny than before. But VW isn’t the only automaker that’s faced emissions-related lawsuits and investigations. There’s Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, Daimler, for one. And earlier this week, the US Department of Justice released more information related to the FCA EcoDiesel emissions issue.

Newly unsealed documents shed some light on the FCA EcoDiesel lawsuit

A white 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel on a desert mountain road
2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel | FCA

First, a bit of background.

Back in January 2017, the EPA accused FCA of allowing some of its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engines to produce “excess…emissions” through “undisclosed software,” Autoblog reports. This, if you’re unfamiliar with Dieselgate specifics, reads broadly like what Volkswagen did to its diesel engines to get them through emissions testing. Essentially, VW’s diesel engines sensed when they were being emissions-tested and altered their settings to pass, Car and Driver explains.

The indictment unsealed on April 20, 2021, by the DOJ alleges that three FCA employees were planning to do something similar. The prosecutors claim that Emanuele Palma, Sergio Pasini, and Gianluca Sabbioni “played a determining role in developing a defeat device” in the FCA 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, Autoblog reports. Specifically, ‘cycle-beating’ software that lets the diesel engine produce lower NOx emissions during testing, but higher emissions on the road.

Palma, then a diesel emissions and driveability senior manager at FCA, was charged in September 2019, Autoblog reports. Initially, he was charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, Clean Air Act violations, defrauding the US, and making false statements about the FCA EcoDiesels. In 2020, though, a US District Court judge dismissed most of the wire-fraud-related counts, Reuters reports.

Pasini and Sabbioni, meanwhile, were also senior diesel managers at the time, albeit at FCA Italy, Automotive News reports. However, at the time that the alleged EcoDiesel ‘cycle-beating’ software was being developed, they worked for an Italian supplier, VN Motori. FCA initially partially owned it and later fully owned it. They’re charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, to commit wire fraud, and several counts of Clean Air Act violations.

FCA issued an EcoDiesel settlement and recalls

A dark-blue 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Limited 4x4 parked by a plain forest
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Limited 4×4 | Jeep

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In a January 2019 press release, FCA stressed that “it did not engage in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.” However, it did agree to pay roughly $400 million in civil penalties to the EPA, CARB, DOJ, US Customs, and state governments. FCA also fully cooperated with the authorities investigating the allegations.

Additionally, FCA also issued a settlement to the owners of the affected diesel vehicles. Specifically, the approximately 104,000 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 EcoDiesel models. These vehicles were also recalled to ensure they met emissions standards on the road, Consumer Reports notes.

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Also, FCA wasn’t the only manufacturer that released a settlement related to the EcoDiesel engines, AN reports. Bosch, which supplied the emissions-control software, paid out $27.5 million to affected owners and $103.5 million to settle claims with 47 different states.

Are Stellantis’s current diesel models affected?

We reached out to Stellantis, which now owns FCA, for commentary on the DOJ’s unsealed EcoDiesel indictment. A company representative reiterated that Stellantis will “continue to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice, as we have throughout this issue.”

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As far as the current Ram and Jeep EcoDiesel models, they’re not part of any of these allegations. So, if you own a Gladiator EcoDiesel or are eying a 2021 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, know that they do meet emissions standards.

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