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Fiat Chrysler hopes new EPA application will clear diesel emissions dispute

Detroit Free Press — By Eric D. Lawrence Detroit Free Press

May 19-- DETROIT-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Friday that it has formally applied for emissions certification for its 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles that it hopes will resolve allegations of Clean Air Act violations.

The automaker believes the software fix it has proposed will resolve concerns from the federal government and the California Air Resources Board and clear the way for it to finally sell more than 104,000 SUVs and pickups.

The move follows reports this week that indicated the company could face a federal lawsuit if no agreement is reached soon on resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations involving previous year diesel models.

Fiat Chrysler said it believes its application and proposed software fix "should help facilitate a prompt resolution to ongoing discussions with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and other governmental agencies."

If the application, which was filed Thursday, is approved, it would be good news for consumers who have been forced to wait for a 2017 Grand Cherokee or Ram 1500 diesel for months. The automaker has been unable to sell the vehicles at least since January, when EPA announced the violations.

Approval might also signal a positive effort to avoid the kind of scandal that roiled Volkswagen over diesel emissions cheating. The company agreed to pay $4.3 billion in a criminal settlement and more than $17 billion in civil settlements after U.S. regulators uncovered so-called defeat devices, which change how a vehicle performs during or outside of testing, on VW diesels in 2015.

Fiat Chrysler says its 2017 diesel models feature updated emissions software calibrations and that with permission from regulators it would also install the updated software on 2014-16 Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesels.

"The filing (of the application) is 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 its statement.

If the application is approved, owners of the 2014-16 models would be able to receive the updates at their local dealerships. The updated software is expected to reduce emissions but is not expected to effect performance or fuel efficiency.

It was not immediately clear how quickly the government would respond to the application. An EPA spokeswoman said on Thursday that the agency does not comment on vehicles before they are introduced into commerce.

FCA has previously pushed back against the government's claims regarding the alleged Clean Air Act violations, saying that "in the case of any litigation, FCA US will defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company deliberately installed defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests."

FCA's diesels have also been the subject of attention in Europe. On Wednesday, the European Commission, an arm of the European Union, demanded answers from the Italian government over its handling of emissions allegations against the company there.

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