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Fiat agrees to settle emissions cheating case for $800 million

California officials and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. announced Thursday an approximately $800 million settlement of claims that the automaker used illegal software to cheat on the testing of pollution from diesel-powered vehicles.

The settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco, who is presiding over a series of lawsuits filed against the car maker since 2017 by the U.S. Department of Justice, car owners and the state of California.

The agreement concerns 2014-2016 diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500s.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Fiat Chrysler is accused of installing the so-called defeat devices in 100,000 vehicles nationwide, including 13,325 vehicles in California.

The devices allegedly would turn on controls on smog-producing nitrous oxide emissions when cars were tested but would turn off the controls when the vehicles were on the road.

Fiat Chrysler said the settlement includes about $400 million in federal and state penalties plus an average of about $2,800 plus a free software update for car buyers.

The company, based in the Netherlands with a U.S. subsidiary in Michigan, does not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

The investigation grew out of a probe of Volkswagen AG, which ended up paying more than $20 billion to settle criminal and civil cases with similar allegations.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, said:

“This settlement is a direct result of the enhanced screening and testing procedures CARB developed to uncover the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal … It is a testament to our ongoing commitment to clean the air.”

Fiat Chrysler said it has implemented “rigorous new validation procedures and updated our training program” but said the settlement doesn’t change its position that it did not engage in a deliberate scheme to cheat emissions tests.

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