Fiat Chrysler to pay $515 mn in US 'dieselgate' settlements

The Jeep Grand Cherokee and EcoDiesel Ram 1500 for 2014-2016 were designed to defeat emissions tests, resulting in much higher levels of pollution spewed into the air than allowed by US law (AFP Photo/JOE RAEDLE)

New York (AFP) - Fiat Chrysler agreed to a $515 million US settlement on charges it installed "defeat devices" on cars to evade emissions tests, the US Justice Department announced Thursday.

The auto giant will recall and repair more than 100,000 diesel vehicles sold in the United States at a cost of about $185 million.

The remaining funds will go to civil fines and mitigation payments to the US and the state of California.

US officials said FCA's EcoDiesel Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 2014-2016 were built with software designed to operate differently during emissions tests compared with real-world conditions.

As a result the cars spewed nitrogen oxide and other pollutants at "much higher" levels than allowed in the US or California, DOJ said.

"Fiat Chrysler broke those laws and this case demonstrates that steep penalties await corporations that engage in such egregious violations," Principal US Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio said in a statement.

California will receive $78.4 million as part of the settlement for violations of the state's clear emissions standards.

California Attorney Xavier Becerra said the automaker "tried to evade these standards by installing software to cheat emissions testing."

"The company not only violated the law and our trust, but did so at the expense of our environment. With this settlement, we are holding Fiat Chrysler accountable and securing important funds for environmental protection efforts."

The settlements come on the heels of the Volkswagen scandal over defeat devices that has spawned billions of dollars in fines and criminal prosecutions of former executives with the German giant.

DOJ said the FCA agreement "does not resolve any potential criminal liability" or consumer claims.