Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. pleaded guilty to one criminal felony count of fraud conspiracy yesterday. FCA US, now known as Stellantis North America, has agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay about $300 million in fines and forfeiture penalties. The investigation centered around the automaker’s efforts to skirt diesel emissions regulations with the 3-liter EcoDiesel engine used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.
The automaker used this particular EcoDiesel engine in Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 from the 2014 model year through the 2016 model year. Stellantis purposely calibrated the emissions control systems on the models in question to produce less NOx emissions during the federal test procedures. The models would then make more NOx emissions when operated by customers in normal driving conditions to meet the advertised performance and best-in-class fuel efficiency claims.
Knowing the stiff scrutiny the automaker would face, FCA US deceived and misled federal regulators to receive approval to sell EcoDiesel-equipped vehicles. According to the Department of Justice:
“FCA US then engaged in deceptive and fraudulent conduct to conceal the emissions impact and function of the emissions control systems from its U.S. regulators and U.S. customers by (a) submitting false and misleading applications to U.S. regulators to receive authorization to sell the vehicles, (b) making false and misleading representations to U.S. regulators both in person and in response to written requests for information, and (c) making false and misleading representations to consumers about the Subject Vehicles in advertisements and in window labels, including that the Subject Vehicles complied with U.S. emissions requirements, had best-in-class fuel efficiency as measured by EPA testing, and were equipped with “clean EcoDiesel engine[s]” that reduced emissions.”
Sentencing is scheduled for July 18th. As a part of the plea agreement, Stellantis North American must cooperate with any further Department of Justice investigations on the matter as well as implement a compliance and ethics program. While it’s impossible to sentence a corporation to time in a federal penitentiary, three FCA US executives have been indicted and are awaiting trial on related fraud conspiracy charges.