Less than a week after Fiat Chrysler committed $1 billion to revamping two Midwest plants — which would create thousands of new jobs — the company has landed in hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency. The New York Times reveals that the EPA has accused the automaker of arming over 104,000 diesel vehicles with “secret software” that would allow illegal excess emissions of nitrogen oxides. These gases not only present environmental risks but also pose dangers to human health.
At issue are the past three years of Jeep Grand Cherokees and certain models of Dodge Ram trucks, and the EPA has notified Fiat Chrysler that these vehicles violate the Clean Air Act. The automaker has yet to sufficiently answer to the EPA but told the NY Times how it “believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.”
The EPA hasn’t quite accused Fiat Chrysler of using “defeat devices” — what Volkswagon used to cheat on diesel emissions tests for 600,000 vehicles. That giant mess cost Volkswagon about $4.3 billion in penalties following federal investigations, and they’re also on the hook for numerous related consumer settlements for a total of $20 billion. Although Fiat Chrysler simply received more of a warning here, the automaker’s stock has reportedly fallen 15% since the EPA made its accusations.
Cynthia Giles, an EPA administrator, told the NY Times that Fiat Chrysler’s software does come close to the defeat-device category. The declaration also arrives just prior to Donald Trump, who isn’t much of a climate change believer, taking office. This could be an attempt by the EPA to ward off what the Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell calls “polluter lobbyists.” That, and Trump has vowed to scale back the EPA. He even went so far as to nominate anti-EPA Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the agency.