Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has recalled almost 863,000 vehicles that violate U.S. emissions standards, another setback for a company that just agreed to make amends for building some trucks and SUVs that polluted more than legally allowed.
The voluntary recall of 2011 through 2016 model year Jeep, Dodge and Chryslers will be implemented in phases throughout the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday. The automaker won’t be fined or face allegations of wrongdoing. The cost of the callback was accounted for last year, according to the company.
The California Air Resources Board also was part of the investigation that led to the recall, and roughly 50,000 affected vehicles are in the state, according to the state’s clean-air regulator. In California, drivers must complete the recall repairs to register a vehicle, the agency said in a statement.
The recall of gasoline-powered models was prompted by a so-called in-use investigation by the EPA as well as testing done by Fiat Chrysler required by agency rules, the regulator said. The EPA routinely tests the emissions of vehicles driven by consumers to ensure that tailpipe emissions remain within legal limits over time.
In its statement, the regulator said the EPA would “continue to investigate other FCA vehicles which are potentially non-compliant and may become the subject of future recalls.”
Fiat Chrysler will replace the catalytic converter and update the emissions-calibration software on the affected vehicles, and the changes won’t affect fuel economy or performance, said Mark Chernoby, the company’s chief technical compliance officer. He declined to comment on whether the automaker’s models were under EPA review.
The company’s internal tests showed the excess emissions, and it decided to recall the vehicles last year, he said.
Emissions recalls occur less frequently than safety-related callbacks. Manufacturers conducted 85 emissions recalls covering more than 5.3 million vehicles in 2017, according to the EPA. By contrast, automakers issue hundreds of safety-related recalls annually.
Emissions recalls are less common in part because catalytic converters have become more durable since the devices first appeared decades ago to lower tailpipe pollution, said John German, an independent auto industry consultant.
“It used to be routine,” he said, “but these kinds of emissions recalls are becoming more rare.”
The recall begins two months after Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay about $800 million in fines and costs to settle lawsuits brought by states, car owners and the U.S. Justice Department that said the company’s diesel-powered pickups and SUVs violated clean-air rules. Jeffrey Bossert Clark, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, called the Italian American company “a multinational corporate bad actor” when the penalties were announced in January.
The settlement didn’t require Fiat Chrysler to admit wrongdoing. The pact also didn’t resolve any potential criminal liability associated with the emissions violations, the Justice Department said at the time. Prosecutors have an ongoing criminal probe of Fiat Chrysler that was opened in 2017, Bloomberg has reported.
The case was the second major action brought by U.S. officials against an automaker for Clean Air Act violations stemming from the discovery that diesel vehicles were rigged to pass emissions tests in labs, even though they spewed nitrogen oxide in excess of permitted levels while on the road.
In January 2017, Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay some $4.3 billion in U.S. penalties after admitting it deliberately rigged hundreds of thousands of U.S. diesel vehicles.