By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business
The Michigan-based arm of the international automaker Stellantis has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $300 million in penalties to settle an investigation into alleged cheating on emissions tests for some of its diesel-powered vehicles.
The vehicles in question are more than 100,000 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 pickups from the 2014 through 2016 model years. Jeep and Ram were, at the time, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and it was FCA US, now part of Stellantis, that entered the plea deal with the US Department of Justice.
FCA US pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud, and violate the Clean Air Act, according to the Justice Department. In the plea agreement, FCA US admitted to using software in its six-cylinder diesel engines to pass stringent emissions tests even though, in real-world operation, the engines would not have met the emissions requirements. The company also made efforts to hide that fact from regulators and consumers, according to papers filed by the Justice Department.
“These regulations have been put in place to protect the health and well-being of our citizens and environment,” Luis Quesada, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement. “This guilty plea reflects the commitment of the FBI and our local, state, and federal partners to investigate and bring to justice those who engage in fraudulent and harmful practices.”
The plea deal comes five years after Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to criminal charges to resolve its own emissions crisis affecting nearly 600,000 vehicles in a scandal that became known as “Dieselgate.”
Volkswagen’s deception precipitated additional scrutiny that resulted in officials on both sides of the Atlantic cracking down on automakers accused of using illegal software known as defeat devices to dupe government emissions tests.
Consumer claims related to the alleged cheating have been already been resolved, Stellantis said in a statement, and no further recalls are needed to correct the issues.
In January of 2019, FCA agreed to a settlement worth about $800 million to resolve civil claims from the Justice Department and the state of California related to the diesel emissions probe. That deal did not include any admission of guilt or wrongdoing by the automaker. As part of that deal, FCA agreed to pay $2,800 each to owners of the vehicles involved.
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Reuters contributed to this report