DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said Friday it received approval from government regulators to sell 2017 model year vehicles equipped with diesel engines after a monthslong delay and amid a probe into the company’s alleged use of illegal emissions software.
The Italian-American auto maker said the Environmental Protection Agency granted it a certificate, and the Air Resources Board of California issued a conditional executive order allowing sales of new diesel engine-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 pick-up trucks.
The move marks a sign of progress in a nearly two-year long dispute that became public in January when the EPA accused Fiat Chrysler of subverting its emissions testing. The accusations could cost the company up to $4.63 billion in fines, the EPA has estimated.
Fiat Chrysler said Friday it has modified tailpipe emissions software to meet concerns raised by federal officials in their continuing investigation. Similar patches are planned for 2014-2016 diesel models cited by the EPA and California Air Resources Board, the company said.
“The approvals announced today represent a significant step toward resolving the issues raised by EPA and ARB,” Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive, said in a statement.
The fate of the 2017 model year diesel vehicles had been in limbo after the EPA earlier this year accused the auto maker of failing to disclose emissions-control software on nearly 104,000 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicles and Ram pickup trucks in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. In May, the Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler and accused the auto maker of using so-called “defeat devices.”
The company has denied seeking to intentionally undermine emissions testing and using any illegal devices on its vehicles.
EPA officials alerted Fiat Chrysler as early as November 2015 that regulators suspected it of using illegal emissions software. It followed a Volkswagen AG admission to using defeat devices to pass government tests and then pollute the air far beyond legal limits.
Volkswagen in March pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. for rigging nearly 600,000 diesel-powered vehicles with illegal software that is on some 11 million vehicles globally. In the U.S. alone, legal settlements could cost Volkswagen more than $25 billion depending on how many vehicles the auto maker ends up repurchasing to compensate consumers.
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