According to the Department of Justice, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' U.S. subsidiary pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, and violating the Clean Air Act for "making false and misleading representations" about emissions control systems on more than 100,000 vehicles (DOJ).
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the automaker, which changed its name to FCA US in 2014, agreed to pay a $96,145,784 criminal fine and forfeit $203,572,892. Misrepresentations about pollutant emissions, fuel efficiency, and compliance with US emissions standards on Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel trucks from model years 2014 to 2016 are at issue.
Beginning in 2010, FCA US developed a new diesel engine for Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 vehicles, which were marketed as "clean EcoDiesel" vehicles with best-in-class fuel efficiency in the United States.
According to court documents, the company installed software features and engaged in other deceptive and fraudulent behavior in order to avoid regulatory scrutiny and help meet required emissions standards fraudulently.
FCA US then engaged in deceptive and fraudulent behavior to hide the emissions impact and function of the emissions control systems from its US regulators and customers, including:
1. Submitting false and misleading applications to US regulators in order to obtain authorization to sell the vehicles;
2. Making false and misleading representations to US regulators in person and in response to written requests for information; and
3. Making false and misleading representations to consumers in advertisements and window labels, including that the company complied with US emissions requirements and had best-in-class fuel efficiency as measured by EP.
"FCA US engaged in a multi-year scheme to mislead U.S. regulators and customers," said the Justice Department's Criminal Division's Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. "Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the department’s dedication to prosecuting all types of corporate malfeasance and holding accountable companies that seek to place profits above candor, good corporate governance, and timely remediation."
The agreement comes five years after Volkswagen's "Dieselgate" scandal, in which the automaker pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $4.3 billion. In 2020, Fiat Chrysler paid a $9.5 million fine after an internal audit found that its diesel engines complied with all US environmental laws and that no "defeat devices" were used to avoid or fool emission tests.
Other automakers have been implicated in various levels of emissions tampering, including Daimler AG, Toyota, Nissan, and others.
FCA US agreed to cooperate with the DOJ in any ongoing or future criminal investigations under the terms of the guilty plea, which is still subject to court approval.
They also agreed to keep implementing a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect fraudulent conduct throughout their operations, as well as to report to the department on the remediation, implementation, and testing of their compliance program and internal controls.
"Consumer claims related to the subject vehicles have already been resolved," FCA US, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stellantis N.V., said in a statement, stressing that "no additional recalls are required."
"As described in Stellantis N.V.’s 2021 financial disclosures, approximately €266 million ($301 million) was previously accrued related to this matter," according to the statement, "which is sufficient to cover the forfeiture and penalty imposed by the plea agreement."
By fLEXI tEAM