WASHINGTON/NEW YORK — The Justice Department on Thursday charged U.S.-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with criminal conspiracy in its multi-year investigation into emissions fraud surrounding diesel-powered vehicles.
Reuters reported last week that FCA US LLC, now part of Stellantis NV, agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge stemming from its efforts to evade emissions requirements for more than 100,000 former Ram pickup trucks and Jeep sport utility vehicles in its US lineup. and would pay around $300 million in penalties.
U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds in Detroit has scheduled a plea hearing for FCA U.S. for 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Government Criminal Intelligence accuses FCA US of conspiracy to defraud the United States to violate the Clean Air Act and commit wire fraud, said the automaker deceived U.S. regulators and sold the vehicles “knowing that those vehicles did not meet U.S. emissions standards” and also deceive customers “by making false and misleading statements.
Stellantis declined to comment.
The government said the FCA’s US assets subject to forfeiture amounted to $203.6 million. FCA US is also expected to pay a criminal fine of approximately $96 million as part of the settlement.
The impending guilty plea represents the latest major action U.S. officials are expected to take against the FCA in the emissions fraud case.
The affected diesel vehicles cover model years 2014 to 2016. FCA merged with French manufacturer Peugeot PSA in 2021 to form Stellantis.
The plea deal comes five years after Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to criminal charges to address its own emissions crisis affecting nearly 600,000 vehicles in a scandal known as “Dieselgate”.
Volkswagen’s deception has precipitated closer scrutiny which has led officials on both sides of the Atlantic to crack down on automakers accused of using illegal software known as defeat devices to dupe emissions testing of the government.
European automakers relied on so-called clean diesel technology to make vehicles capable of complying with tougher environmental regulations only to have officials find they polluted more on the road than in the tests that certified them. for sale. Automakers are now focusing their efforts on battery electric vehicles.
In January 2019, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement worth about $800 million to resolve the Department of Justice and California’s civil lawsuits over the diesel emissions investigation.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Mike SpectorEditing by Nick Zieminski)
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