US seeks ‘substantial’ fines in Fiat Chrysler emissions case

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department is seeking “substantial” civil fines from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV after the government filed suit accusing the company of illegally using software that led to excess emissions in 104,000 US diesel vehicles sold since 2014, a person briefed on the matter said on Friday. Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the Justice Department sent Fiat Chrysler lawyers a January 27 settlement offer that included requiring the company to offset excess pollution and take steps to prevent future excess emissions.
A person briefed on the matter confirmed the letter included language that a settlement “must include very substantial civil penalties.”
Fiat Chrysler shares ended down 7.2 per cent at $22.30 on Friday in New York after earlier falling over 10 per cent on news of the potential fines.
In a discussion in Washington this week between the Justice Department and Fiat Chrysler overseen by court-appointed settlement adviser Ken Feinberg, no specific figures were discussed, two people briefed on the talks said.
Another round of settlement talks is set for late this month.
Feinberg and Fiat Chrysler declined to comment.
In July, Fiat Chrysler won approval from federal and California regulators to sell 2017 model year diesel vehicles after it came under scrutiny for alleged excess emissions in older diesel models. To resolve the excess pollution issue, Fiat Chrysler lawyer Robert Giuffra said in December at a court hearing the company remains confident it can use updated emissions software in the 2017 vehicles as the basis of a fix to address agencies’ concerns over 2014-2016 diesel vehicles.
The Justice Department said in December that company testing on the proposed fix began on December 17 and would take about three months. The government will then have 30 days to review the results and expects to make a determination by the end of April.
No settlement is expected before testing is completed, people briefed on the talks said. — AFP