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May 27, 2022

FCA US pleads guilty to diesel emissions charge

Criminal conspiracy charge arising from efforts to evade emissions requirements.

By Graeme Roberts

The US business of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has agreed to plead guilty to criminal conduct and pay about US$300 million in penalties to resolve a multi-year emissions fraud probe surrounding vehicles with diesel engines, Reuters sources said.

FCA US, now part of Stellantis NV, has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge arising from its efforts to evade emissions requirements for more than 100,000 older Ram pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs in its US lineup, the news agency sources said.

The plea deal, negotiated with US Justice Department officials, was set to be unveiled as soon as next week, though the timing could slip. The company would then enter its guilty plea during a subsequent hearing in a US district court, Reuters reported.

The affected diesel powered vehicles span model years 2014 to 2016. FCA merged with PSA in 2021 to form Stellantis.

Stellantis and the Justice Department declined to comment to Reuters.

The news agency noted the plea deal came five years after Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges to resolve its own emissions crisis affecting nearly 600,000 vehicles in a scandal that became known as “Dieselgate.”

The Volkswagen Group is also paying GBP193m to settle ‘dieselgate’ claims in the UK. Claimants this week reached an out of court settlement in the Volkswagen NOx Emissions Group Litigation. That group action concerned claims, which first became public in September 2015, made in respect of the two mode software installed in some VW group vehicles with EA189 diesel engines.

Reuters said one of FCA’s employees was preparing to face trial on charges he misled regulators about pollution from the vehicles targeted in the investigation. Last year, the Justice Department disclosed charges against two additional FCA employees in the alleged emissions fraud.

An indictment alleges the employees conspired to install defeat devices in vehicles so they could dupe government emissions tests and then pollute beyond legal limits on roadways.

FCA has previously resolved related civil allegations while denying it deliberately attempted to cheat on emissions tests, Reuters added.

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