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Regulator-approved fix for another 84,000 diesels could save VW some money

VW fixes must engage emissions control without dramatic performance loss.

Study says excess diesel vehicle emissions killed 38,000 people in 2015

Real-world testing and more stringent regulations would turn those numbers around.

EPA chief promises to recuse himself from lawsuits, advocates for coal

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator also clarified his use of personal e-mail.

310-mile range and 320kW: 2019’s Audi e-tron Sportback

The powertrain looks great, but we're not sure about the styling.

Hydrogen fuel cell SUV is our first look at Genesis’ new...

Designer Luc Donckerwolke got to start with a clean sheet of paper.

Volkswagen boss won’t rule out sale to Fiat-Chrysler

CEO Matthias Mueller has changed his tune from just a week ago.

Volkswagen unveils Sedric, its first fully-autonomous vehicle

Concept introduces "Level 5" autonomy and cross-brand ideas

PSA: Amazon is giving everyone an $8.63 coupon off of $50...

Coupon follows new lower price for free standard shipping without Prime.

Top Gear teases its new season, starting in March

Can bigger roles for Chris Harris and Rory Reid save the ratings? We hope so.

VW agrees to pay 3.0L diesel owners $7,000 to $16,000 after...

A settlement reached late Tuesday will give VW an opportunity to fix some cars.

EPA: Fiat Chrysler diesels have software to thwart emissions controls

Enlarge / STERLING HEIGHTS, MI - AUGUST 26: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks at an event celebrating the start of production of three all-new stamping presses at the FCA Sterling Stamping Plant August 26, 2016 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)Bill Pugliano reader comments 89 Share this story On Thursday the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Fiat Chrysler (FCA) diesel vehicles were found to have "at least eight" instances of undisclosed software that modified the emissions control systems of the cars.

The vehicles implicated in the EPA's Notice of Violation (NOV) include 2014, 2015, and 2016 diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees, as well as Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines.

The allegations involve 104,000 vehicles, the EPA said. The EPA says it's still in talks with FCA and hasn't ordered the company to stop selling affected cars yet, nor is it officially calling the software a "defeat device" just yet until FCA provides a more detailed explanation. In a press conference, agency officials said that the undisclosed software was discovered after September 2015, when the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began doing additional testing on vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen Group scandal. VW Group was discovered to have almost 600,000 diesel vehicles on US roads with some kind of illegal software on them.

The software allowed VW Group's cars to pass emissions testing under lab conditions but would reduce the effectiveness of emissions controls under real-world driving conditions, causing the cars to emit nitrogen oxide (NOx) far in excess of federal limits. According to the EPA, FCA's undisclosed software works similarly, too.

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles told press Thursday morning that the "software is designed such that, during the emissions test, Fiat Chrysler’s cars meet the standards," for NOx emissions. However, the "software reduces the effectiveness of emissions controls when driving at high speed or for long durations," she added. These kinds of workarounds are not uncommon for car makers to use and are not illegal if they're properly disclosed and approved by the EPA.

But efforts to meet emissions standards have driven automakers to install undisclosed devices illegally for decades.
In fact in the 1970s, Chrysler—along with GM, Ford, American Motors, Nissan, and Toyota—was reprimanded by the EPA for installing defeat devices in its cars to "defeat the effectiveness of emission control systems under conditions not experienced during EPA’s certification testing." In some instances the defeat devices helped the cars start more easily in cold weather, in others, time-delay switches cut the emissions control systems while the cars shifted from low to high gears. In Europe, too, rules allow diesel vehicles to cut the emissions control system under certain conditions like cold weather.

Automakers have toed a line, though, using emissions control software where "cold" weather means as high as 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Giles noted during the EPA's press conference that the agency has tested other diesel vehicles since the Volkswagen scandal was made public and found no violations. "It is by no means impossible to make a clean diesel vehicle that meets our standards," she said. In a statement (PDF), FCA said it would continue to work with the EPA to resolve the issue. "FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency.

FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements." FCA added that it had spent "months providing voluminous information" to the EPA and other regulators.

The company said it had also made proposals to fix the issues, including "developing extensive software changes to our emissions control strategies that could be implemented in these vehicles immediately to further improve emissions performance." FCA has not yet been sued, but the EPA says it could be "liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV [Notice of Violation]." Correction: This story originally said the EPA found the software on the FCA diesels was illegal.
In fact, the EPA is still determining whether the software itself was illegal. However, Fiat Chrysler violated EPA rules by not disclosing the software.

DOJ indicts 6 Volkswagen executives, automaker will pay $4.3 billion in...

photo reader comments 23 Share this story The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday that Volkswagen would pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines and plead guilty to three criminal charges pertaining to the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal.

The DOJ also announced an indictment of six high-level VW Group executives, who are charged with lying to regulators and destroying documents. Working with US Customs and Border Patrol, the DOJ brought against VW Group charges of defrauding the US government, committing wire fraud, and violating the Clean Air Act.

As part of the settlement, VW Group has agreed to submit to three years of criminal probation, which will require the German automaker to "retain an independent monitor to oversee its ethics and compliance program." It has also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigations into individual executives that may have been involved with the scandal. For the past 17 months, the automaker has maintained that none of its executives were involved with the diesel scandal, in which illegal software was discovered on Volkswagens, Audis, and Porsches to alter the cars' emissions controls depending on whether the cars sensed they were under real-world driving conditions or lab conditions.
Instead, VW Group claimed, "rogue engineers" were responsible for the placement of the emissions cheating software on the cars. After the software was discovered, VW Group admitted that its cars did have mechanisms to reduce the effectiveness of the emissions controls on its so-called "Clean Diesel" cars.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department and a class-action group of consumers pursued civil penalties from VW Group, leading to historic settlements of many billions of dollars earlier this year. This new agreement repudiates VW Group's assertion that its executives were wholly innocent of tampering with the cars' emissions control systems.

The indicted VW Group executives include Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Jens Hadler, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jürgen Peter, and Oliver Schmidt.
Schmidt, a former emissions compliance executive for VW Group, is the only executive currently in the US—he was arrested over the weekend by the FBI on charges that he knew about the cheating software and lied to federal regulators about it. Among the other five men indicted, Richard Dorenkamp, head of VW’s technical development for lowest emission engines, was suspended from VW Group in 2015; Bernd Gottweis, a retired VW Group executive, apparently warned CEO Martin Winterkorn that the company's cars could be found with defeat devices; Jens Hadler worked as executive director of powertrain development at Volkswagen in 2008; Heinz-Jakob Neusser oversaw Volkswagen research and development; and Jürgen Peter was a Volkswagen engineering executive who implored his colleagues via internal e-mail to "Come up with the story please!" when the California Air Resources Board started pressing Volkswagen on discrepancies in emissions tests that persisted after VW Group issued a "fix." So far, Volkswagen has agreed to pay $15 billion to compensate victims of the 2.0L diesel engine scandal, $1 billion to settle charges related to 3.0L diesel vehicles (although owner compensation hasn’t been decided on yet), and $1.2 billion to compensate US Volkswagen dealers, who were unaware that the cars they were selling were not in compliance with US emissions regulations. One engineer, James Liang, has pleaded guilty. According to the Associated Press, this fresh $4.3 billion settlement "is the largest ever levied by the government against an automaker, eclipsing the $1.2 billion fine against Toyota in 2014 over safety issues related to unintended acceleration." Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, speaking at the DOJ's press conference, said that VW Group executives were largely responsible for the scandal, describing a company culture where "lower-level people" expressed concerns and "higher-level people" decided to move forward with planting the illegal software.