Owners of Dodge Ram trucks are now claiming that Fiat Chrysler installed so-called “defeat device” technology — though different from what was found in Volkswagen’s ongoing “Dieselgate” scandal — that was allegedly designed to do a bad job of restricting emissions.
The lawsuit [PDF], filed Monday in a federal court in Detroit, is the first brought against a U.S.-based manufacturer. It accuses Fiat Chrysler of conspiring with engine manufacturer Cummins in knowingly deceiving consumers and regulators about the amount of emissions released by certain Dodge Ram trucks.
According to the lawsuit, more than 500,000 model year 2007 to 2012 diesel-engine Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks contain devices that allow the vehicles to emit nitrogen oxide at up to 14 times more than that allowed under federal law.
Despite this, the suit claims that FCA and Cummins worked together to market and sell the trucks under the false pretense that they were “super clean” or “cleaner than gas vehicles,” or environmentally friendly.
“Cummins Inc. and Chrysler saw a golden business opportunity, and worked together to build a truck that, at least on paper,” met stringent standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001.
The two companies allegedly created a plan to “leapfrog” the industry and produce a vehicle that met standards three years before they were set to take effect in 2010.
The result was a truck touted as the “strongest, cleanest, quietest best-in-class” turbo diesel engine that was “super clean” and used exclusively in the Dodge 2500 and 2500 Heavy Duty trucks.
The Ram owners — represented by the law firm of Hagens Berman — claim that in order to produce a diesel engine with “desirable torque and power characteristics, good fuel economy, and emissions levels low enough to meet the stringent standards,” the companies developed a flawed product with limited capacity to trap or minimize excess emissions.
Typically, the primary emission control after-treatment technologies in the vehicle included a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and a NOx adsorber catalyst system to capture and reduce NOx into less harmful substances, such as nitrogen and oxygen.
However, the lawsuit claims that the catalysts in the Dodge trucks are not durable and do not meet emission standards.
As a result, testing by Hagens Berman found that the trucks emit an average of 702mg of NOx/mile in stop-and-go traffic, significantly more than the 200 mg/mile allowed under federal law.
Additionally, under highway driving, tests found the trucks emitted 756mg/mile, a violation of the 400mg/mile allowed under California law.
The suit further alleges that creating a device that prevented NOx from being broken down, which means the vehicles require more gas and deteriorate more quickly.
Specifically, the catalytic converter wears out prematurely, resulting in the vehicle burning fuel at a higher rate. As a result, owners pay more for fuel and often must replace the converter after the warranty has expired at a cost of approximately $3,000 to $5,000.
The plaintiffs accuses FCA and Cummins of fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Additionally, the companies are accused of intentionally misleading the public, concealing emissions levels, illegally selling noncompliant polluting vehicles, knowingly profiting from the dirty diesels and using fraudulently gained emissions credits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use on further production of high-polluting vehicles.
FCA did not respond to Bloomberg News’ request for comment on this lawsuit. We are also reaching out to the carmaker and will update if we hear back.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.