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Fiat Chrysler equipped more than 104,000 diesel vehicles with secret software to cheat emissions tests, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday, a day after the agency and the Justice Department issued billions of dollars in fines against Volkswagen and criminal charges against six of the company's executives for a similar emissions scandal.

Diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks from model years 2014, 2015 and 2016 were installed with software known as auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs).

The AECDs allegedly reduced the vehicles' emission of nitrogen oxide during tests, but allowed the emissions to exceed EPA limits during regular driving, particularly at high speeds or when the vehicles were driven for prolonged periods.

No recall or other action has been issued as the agency's investigation continues.

Nitrogen oxide exacerbates asthma and other illnesses and can be particularly harmful to children, the elderly and those with pre-existing diseases.

The Clean Air Act violations included in the notice of violation have a maximum civil penalty of $44,539 per vehicle sold, or $4.6 billion.

Volkswagen, which admitted to similar violations last year, agreed Tuesday to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines in one of the most expensive corporate penalties in history. It also agreed in June to pay about $15 billion to settle a related class-action lawsuit brought by the Justice Department.

"Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle's engine is a serious violation of the law," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a call with reporters. "All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage."

The violations were discovered during testing perhaps as far back as September 2015, when the agency introduced a more robust testing regime after discovering that Volkswagen had equipped more than 500,000 VW, Audi and Porsche diesel cars and SUVs with software to defeat emissions checks.

The timing of the announcement may have come with an eye toward the incoming administration, which assumes office next Friday.

Over 104,000 Fiat Chrysler Vehicles Cheated Emissions Tests, EPA Says | National News | US News
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