EPA suspected Fiat Chrysler of using ‘defeat device’ in 2015 | Reuters

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON U.S. regulators told Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU.N) in November 2015 that they suspected some of the automaker’s vehicles were equipped with secret software allowing them to violate emission control standards, according to emails disclosed on Friday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board accused Fiat Chrysler in January of using the software, known as a “defeat device,” to illegally allow excess diesel emissions in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks.

Byron Bunker, director of the EPA’s Transportation and Air Quality compliance division, said in a January 2016 email to Fiat Chrysler, obtained by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act, that he was “very concerned about the unacceptably slow pace” of the automaker’s efforts to explain high nitrogen oxide emissions from some of its vehicles.

Nitrogen oxide is linked to smog formation and respiratory problems.

Bunker’s email said the EPA had told Fiat Chrysler officials at a November 2015 meeting that at least one auxiliary emissions control device on the car maker’s vehicles appeared to violate the agency’s regulations.

Mike Dahl, head of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance for Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. unit, responded in a separate email that the company was working diligently and understood the EPA’s concerns. He added that if the EPA identified Fiat Chrysler vehicles as containing defeat devices it would result in “potentially significant regulatory and commercial consequences.”

The documents redacted the vehicles named, but two officials briefed on the matter said they referred to diesel models.

The EPA’s November 2015 meeting with Fiat Chrysler came two months after Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), mired in a major tailpipe emissions scandal, admitted to installing secret defeat device software in…

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