Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is preparing for a possible recall over an emissions issue affecting about 1 million vehicles, likely including Jeep SUV models, equipped with its 2.4-liter Tigershark engine.
Excess tailpipe pollution was released during testing on the vehicles but, according to the company, that's not connected to claims in various lawsuits that the gasoline-powered engines burn excessive amounts of oil, which could cause stalling. It's not known how soon the recall could happen.
"In connection with internal testing, we determined that approximately 1 million vehicles equipped with the 2.4L Tigershark engine may have excess tailpipe emissions," FCA said in a recent regulatory filing.
The extent of pollution from the Tigershark emissions was not clear. FCA said it has been in contact with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board about the situation.
"FCA has been working closely with EPA and CARB, and we continue to do so, on a group of vehicles equipped with Tigershark engines. As this population ages, some vehicles exceed in-use emission requirements, depending on drive cycle and mileage. We are conducting test programs to define a remedy, which also requires approval by the agencies. Affected customers will be advised when service becomes available, and will be provided free of charge. This is not a safety issue and there are no enforcement actions," according to a company statement provided by spokesman Eric Mayne.
The EPA, through spokesperson Enesta Jones, responded to an email from the Free Press by saying that FCA is doing a voluntary recall based on in-use testing done by EPA. The agency released a report last year highlighting its increasing efforts to monitor vehicle emissions, noting that 86 recalls, affecting more than 4.9 million light-duty vehicles, were conducted in 2017.
The Tigershark issue, according to FCA, is not connected to the company's diesel emissions troubles , which has echoes of but apparently not the scope of Volkswagen's Dieselgate. FCA and German supplier Bosch agreed to a civil settlement last year, which called for the owners of about 100,000 2014-16 EcoDiesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500s — the vehicles at issue — to get payments of about $3,000 each. FCA denied wrongdoing, although prosecutors accused the company of installing so-called defeat devices on the vehicles to cheat emissions tests. An FCA manager was later placed on leave, Emanuele Palma, has been indicted, and FCA said in the regulatory filing it is in talks with both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department's Criminal Division, which are investigating.
The Tigershark emissions issue was referenced in the same regulatory filing, which also highlighted oil consumption complaints. Those complaints have led to class-action lawsuits against the company in California and Michigan related to the engine, which, FCA said, has been installed in about 1.6 million vehicles sold in the United States. FCA, through its spokesman, said it doesn't discuss ongoing litigation but that if customers have concerns they can contact their dealers.
One of the lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in May in Detroit, said the engine was installed in six models, the 2014-20 Jeep Cherokee, 2017-20 Jeep Compass, 2015-20 Jeep Renegade, 2015-16 Chrysler 200, 2013-16 Dodge Dart and the 2016-20 Fiat 500X.
Kyle Davis of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, is one of the plaintiffs. He bought a 2015 Dodge Dart, which he still owns, from Carvana in April 2018.
Davis replaced the spark plugs after less than 800 miles because the car kept shutting down, and he followed the suggested maintenance schedule for oil changes, the suit said.
"When plaintiff checked the oil he noticed the dipstick was completely dry and had to use three quarts of oil to fill (the car). In November 2019, plaintiff was driving 60 miles per hour on the freeway when the affected vehicle shut down on him without warning. This was particularly dangerous because the other vehicles on the freeway also had no warning that the affected vehicle would suddenly slow down," according to the suit.
Davis took the car for engine repairs to an FCA dealership, which did not give him a loaner. It took four weeks and $4,000 before Davis got his car back, and it still uses oil at an "abnormally high pace," the suit said.
Hundreds of owners have reported their vehicles shutting down without warning because of low oil levels or pressure, but the company describes it as normal in its technical service bulletins, the suit said.
”Moreover, the sudden shut-offs caused by the oil consumption defect could be avoided if FCA’s oil indicator system alerted drivers of the class vehicles that their engine oil was running low. But it does not. And this ‘oil indicator’ defect means that drivers of the class vehicles only become aware of a dangerously low engine-oil level after it causes an engine stall or shut-down, putting their lives at risk," the suit said.
The suit also highlighted numerous complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
One of those complaints, filed in June 2019, came from a self-described, lifelong Chrysler buyer from Houston. The individual said his 2019 Jeep Cherokee broke down with less than 3,000 miles, one of two times it stalled out on him.
"It gave no indication, just completely shut off while I was driving in the middle lane of a fast-paced highway and almost killed me," according to the complaint, which said the engine was burning too hot and consuming oil at a fast rate.
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Fiat Chrysler Tigershark engine could be recalled for emissions