FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has repeatedly denied claims that the company used a cheat device or software to meet diesel emissions requirements.

The Environmental Protection Agency suspected that Fiat Chrysler was using some sort of cheating device when testing its diesel emissions levels back in 2015, according to news reports.

The revelation came to light through a public records request, Reuters reported, that uncovered emails discussing the possibility in November 2015.

Fiat Chrysler, which has repeatedly denied the accusation, was accused earlier this year by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board of using software to cheat on the emissions test in a manner similar to Volkswagen. The charge applies to 104,000 2014-2016 Dodge Ram 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees.

In a January 2016 email, Byron Bunker, director of the EPA’s Transportation and Air Quality compliance division, wrote he was “very concerned about the unacceptably slow pace of the efforts to understand the high NOx emissions.”

(Fiat Chrysler’s diesel problems getting worse. For more, Click Here.)

Bunker’s email said the EPA had told Fiat Chrysler officials at a November 2015 meeting that at least one auxiliary emissions control device appeared to violate the agency’s regulations.

Mike Dahl, head of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance for Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. unit, wrote in response to Bunker’s email the company understood the EPA’s concerns and working to resolve the issue. He added that if the EPA declared vehicles to contain defeat devices, it would result in “potentially significant regulatory and commercial consequences,” Reuters reported.

The Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler in May, saying it placed eight undeclared “defeat devices,” or auxiliary emissions controls, in 2014-2016 Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles that led to “substantially” higher than allowable levels of nitrogen oxide, which is linked to smog formation and respiratory problems.

FCA has repeatedly denied the charges, but only yesterday the researchers who found Volkswagen’s defeat devices revealed that their testing of Fiat Chrysler’s diesel yielded significant discrepancies between laboratory tests and road tests.

(Click Here to see details about France investigating FCA for diesel emission violations.)

The company is already facing a civil lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that claims the company used “defeat devices” to cheat on emissions testing. If the tests hold up, it could undermine that work and lead to a very big fine for FCA, according to observers.

FCA said the university’s testing appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for purposes of litigation and is thus one sided.

The company said that the researchers from the university have been unwilling to discuss the details of the report with FCA, and called into question the methodology the researchers used. Specifically, FCA said the tests differed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standard testing.

(Feds haul FCA into court over diesel emission testing. Click Here for the story.)

Several aspects of the tests could increase emissions “rendering invalid a comparison of on-road and off-road test results,” FCA said in statement.

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