Fiat Chrysler diesel emissions fix may avert Justice Department showdown
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in a file photo
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Friday that it would implement a minor software fix to resolve a discrepancy on the emissions performance of certain diesel vehicles, in a move that could avert a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
The automaker said it had asked permission to make the upgrades after "many months of close collaboration" with the EPA and California Air Resources Board.
The company said it believes the move "should help facilitate a prompt resolution" to its legal showdown with the Justice Department, which had reportedly threatened to sue over diesel vehicles that were supposedly emitting pollutants at higher rates than are legally acceptable.
The matter erupted in the final days of the Obama administration, which publicly accused Fiat Chrysler of violating emissions laws on more than 100,000 diesel vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne aggressively rejected suggestions that his engineers had intentionally evaded U.S. standards, calling the accusations "absolute nonsense" and saying that anyone who disagreed with him was "smoking illegal material."
The allegations had theoretically put Fiat Chrysler at risk of billions of dollars in government fines, although industry analysts believed any prospective violations were not nearly as serious as those at German automaker Volkswagen, which has apologized for intentionally rigging diesel vehicles with software to cheat standards.
Spokespeople for the EPA and Justice Department declined to comment Friday.
Fiat Chrysler shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange rose 3.8% to $10.86 at 10:30 a.m.
"We're trying to do an honest job here. We're not trying to break the bloody law," Marchionne told reporters in January.
Still, the Department of Justice was reportedly set to file a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler if they could not resolve their dispute over the technical issues in certain Jeep Grand Cherokee and light-duty Ram 1500 pickup trucks with 3-liter diesel engines.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman declined to further discuss the ramifications of the emissions fix on the Justice Department case.
The company said in a statement that it had updated 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles with improved software "to clarify issues related to the company's emissions control technology." The automaker will install the same fix on 2014 through 2016 models "with the permission of EPA and CARB," Fiat Chrysler said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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