A lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice said in a court hearing this week that EPA approval of a technical fix submitted by Jeep and Ram parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be "weeks or months away," Reuters reports. Leigh Rende, a lawyer representing the U.S. government in its lawsuit against the automaker for alleged use of undisclosed emissions devices in 2014-16 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles, indicated there was uncertainty regarding the approval of FCA's software patch, which was submitted to regulators in May.
FCA submitted a software patch as a part of its application to certify 2017 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel that reportedly addresses "calibration" issues with the engines, which the U.S. government accused of emitting greater than advertised levels of pollutants in on-road conditions. The government's lawsuit named a total of 104,000 vehicles with the alleged software.
"The updated calibrations are the result of many months of close collaboration between FCA US and EPA and CARB, including extensive testing of the vehicles, to clarify issues related to the Company’s emissions control technology," the automaker said in a statement this week. "FCA US continues to discuss improved software calibrations with the agencies. Subject to the permission of EPA and CARB, FCA US intends to install the same modified emissions software in 2014-2016 MY Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles. FCA US believes this will address the agencies’ concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles."
Despite the government lawsuit, FCA has played down a research study made public earlier this week that claims the affected Jeep and Ram diesels produce more pollutants in on-road tests than in static tests. The study was performed by the same research team that initially uncovered VW diesel emissions discrepancies, which led to the VW diesel crisis and had prompted the EPA to re-examine certain U.S. market vehicles, including the two Jeep and Ram models.
FCA claims that the West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions tests were conducted at speeds 50 percent greater than those used in EPA testing and that the vehicles carried 600-700 pounds more weight than used in static certification tests.
"Each of the above may increase emissions readings, therefore rendering invalid a comparison of on-road and off-road test results," FCA said in a statement. "Further, the aggregation of these variations makes any comparison misleading. Despite the report, there is no regulatory protocol for conducting on-road emissions testing. The report also indicates that the vehicles were modified by CAFEE prior to testing ostensibly in an effort to replicate a prior recall."
It remains to be seen which route the U.S. Department of Justice will take in this matter. The case will head to trial if the automaker and the government parties cannot reach a settlement over the existing 2014-16 and the unapproved 2017 model year vehicles. Industry observers still expect that FCA will face a significant monetary penalty even if the software patch is ultimately approved by the EPA and CARB.
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