The U.S. Department of Justice leveled a civil lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler on May 23 alleging the automaker used illegal software coding to bypass emissions controls in its diesel SUVs and pickups, reports Automotive News.

The legal action against Fiat Chrysler comes on the heels of litigation that cost Volkswagen some $25-billion in penalties for similarly side-stepping emissions controls by way of clever software programming.

The suit, filed in a U.S. District courthouse in Detroit, Michigan, arrives despite FCA making last-minute efforts to update its emissions software calibrations on the 104,000 apparently affected vehicles, in a bid to appease government regulators.

It appears the concession was too little, too late.

At the heart of the legal action is the government’s assertion the software regulating FCA’s 3.0-litre diesel engine has functions that were not disclosed during the certification process; the programming allegedly allows the diesels to pass federal emissions tests before going on to perform less efficiently during normal driving.

The alleged software fixing is remarkably similar in nature to that which VW eventually pled guilty to in court.

FCA, unlike VW, forthrightly denies the allegations, saying it is “disappointed” the U.S. government chose to proceed with the lawsuit.

“The company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims the company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” said FCA in a prepared statement.

After VW was found guilty of installing cheat software in its diesel vehicles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysed the emission control software of other manufacturers’ diesel vehicles, which is what led to the EPA’s formal complaint against FCA’s software programming, issued in January.

Included among the 104,000 vehicles in dispute are U.S.-market 2014 thru 2016 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks; it’s not clear how many, if any, Canadian-market Jeeps or Rams have the allegedly illegal software on-board.

(Automotive News)