Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has been ordered to pay $299.7 million (£245.8m) for misrepresenting the emissions output of more than 100,000 diesel vehicles sold in the US.
The American company, now part of global car firm Stellantis, was sentenced yesterday in the US after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy in a bid to defraud regulators and customers – similar to the Volkswagen Group’s Dieselgate emissions scandal of seven years ago.
A three-year investigation found that FCA developed a new 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine – the second-generation EcoDiesel units – for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 that it sold in the US from 2014 to 2016, which it marketed as “clean Ecodiesel” vehicles with best-in-class fuel efficiency.
According to court documents, FCA calibrated the vehicles’ emissions-control systems to produce less NOx emissions during the federal test procedures, without which they wouldn't have passed the tests. 101,482 were affected.
As well as this, FCA “engaged in other deceptive and fraudulent conduct” that helped the vehicles meet the required emissions standards, the documents added.
FCA admitted that it did this so that the vehicles could maintain “features that would make them more attractive to consumers”, including with respect to fuel efficiency, service intervals and performance.
As part of the ruling, the firm was ordered to pay $96m (£78m) in fines and told to forfeit $203.6m (£166.9m). It was also given a three-year organisational probation, which imposes terms to stop FCA being involved in similar illegal activity.
As well as this, it must conduct a review of its compliance with the US Clean Air Act, which it must then submit to the authorities. It must then prepare at least two more follow-up reports.
Three former FCA employees were also indicted for conspiracy to defraud the US and to violate the Clean Air Act and six counts of violating the Clean Air Act. They await trial.
“Today’s sentence is an appropriate punishment for a company that schemed to defraud regulators and consumers,” said US attorney Dawn Ison.
“All corporations should be transparent and honest in dealing with the federal government and the public. This prosecution reflects how seriously my office takes this principle.”
In a statement to Autocar, a Stellantis spokesman said: "Consumer claims related to the subject vehicles have already been resolved, and 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, which is sufficient to cover the forfeiture and penalty imposed by the plea agreement."