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Who tuned the “offending” diesels?

by David Zatz on

In the Volkswagen-Audi emissions-fraud case, one of the first questions asked was, “Who did this, and who knew about it?”

In the case of the recent FCA diesel emissions lawsuit, few have asked where the problem started. Reuters merely reported that some emails (in Italian) had raised questions.

Diesel emissions came under scrutiny after Volkswagen was found to have deliberately bypassed government tests, around the world, across numerous different engines, and for a long period of time.

The recent case of Rams and Jeeps with VM engines is far different — a failure to report key actions on one specific engine, in one configuration, at one time. While Volkswagen’s case may have gone right to the CEO, FCA’s seems to have been far more local — and could even have been a supplier’s doing.

FCA did not install a specific “cheat,” but failed to inform the EPA (as required by law) of certain conditions which would spur the emissions system to temporarily shut down. The scope of the conditions was the main negotiating point between FCA and the EPA afterwards; there are no clear definitions of how far one can go to protect the engine. It’s “we know it when we say it,” as one judge famously defined obscenity.

Cummins-equipped Rams were quickly re-certified “as is,” with no issues.

When VM diesels were originally being readied for Ram and Jeep, the engine maker was only half-owned by Fiat.  Two VM USA engineers claimed credit on a network site for their tuning; one said he was responsible for “after-treatment calibrations and strategies.” They were accustomed to then-lax European rules.

Two suppliers, IAV and Bosch, also took credit for the emissions controls. IAV, half-owned by Volkswagen, claimed to have worked on the nitrogen oxide controls — which are the key issue — at the SAE World Congress. The other, Bosch, reportedly wrote Mercedes’ diesel emissions software for the US — the same Mercedes that gave up on selling diesels in the US for the 2017 model year.

FCA has had a clean record on emissions in the United States, and this case bears almost no resemblance to Volkswagen’s (whose engines powered their Audi and Porsche brands). FCA may have relied too much on suppliers, or a small number of people may have taken shortcuts or made incorrect assumptions. Regardless, it’s clear that FCA and Volkswagen don’t deserve to be lumped together.

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