Is Fiat Chrysler in the Same Emissions Mess as Volkswagen?

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It turns out that Volkswagen may not have been the only car company that in the wrong on emissions. Reports that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) is now being targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have put a serious hurt on shares of the carmaker. The news now has been confirmed by the EPA and by FCA US itself.

Reuters first reported on Thursday morning that the EPA was set to accuse Fiat Chrysler of using software in over 100,000 vehicles that allowed excess diesel emissions. Their view was that this was in trucks and sport utility vehicles that have been sold since 2014.

CNBC then reported that Fiat Chrysler intends to challenge the EPA on this matter and work with the new EPA going forward.

If you visited the EPA website on Thursday morning before the 11:00 a.m. time the details were not out. Now the news releases are out. The EPA site said:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued a notice of violation to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and FCA US LLC (collectively FCA) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act for installing and failing to disclose engine management software in light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the United States. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles. The allegations cover roughly 104,000 vehicles. EPA is working in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has also issued a notice of violation to FCA. EPA and CARB have both initiated investigations based on FCA’s alleged actions.

Two additional comments were made as well. From Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance:

Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe. We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.

From CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols:

Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught. CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is a result of that collaboration.

It is important to keep in mind that the EPA is about to undergo a huge change in how it regulates under a Trump administration versus the previous one. That being said, it is hard to know how far this will go or how big a problem it might be.

For all of 2016, Chrysler’s total unit sales were 2.211 million, good for an 11.2% market share (versus 14.1% for Ford, 18.9% share for GM and 14.4% for Toyota USA). Chrysler’s annual sales growth was just 0.1% on a total unit basis.

Sadly, this drop comes on the heels of an Evercore ISI report that suggested that its harder 2018 sales targets were becoming more achievable. Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly had made mention of this to Wall Street analysts, according to multiple reports on Thursday’s earlier reports.

Fiat Chrysler shares were last seen down a sharp 14.8% at $9.45 on a whopping 34 million shares right before the EPA confirmed its news with a release.

FCA US has also released a rather lengthy statement on the matter:

FCA US is disappointed that the EPA has chosen to issue a notice of violation with respect to the emissions control technology employed in the company’s 2014-16 model year light duty 3.0-liter diesel engines.

FCA US intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA US customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements.

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 US has spent months providing voluminous information in response to requests from EPA and other governmental authorities and has sought to explain its emissions control technology to EPA representatives.  FCA US has proposed a number of actions to address EPA’s concerns, including developing extensive software changes to our emissions control strategies that could be implemented in these vehicles immediately to further improve emissions performance.

FCA US looks forward to the opportunity to meet with the EPA’s enforcement division and representatives of the new administration to demonstrate that FCA US’s emissions control strategies are properly justified and thus are not “defeat devices” under applicable regulations and to resolve this matter expeditiously.