Fiat Chrysler face £5bn UK legal action over emissions breaches in vehicles

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Law firm PGMBM has issued a case in the High Court of Justice against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over a diesel emissions scandal that could affect as estimated half a million of vehicles in England and Wales, manufactured since 2008.

It is alleged that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) misled customers and authorities concerning the toxic emissions produced by certain models of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Suzuki and Iveco diesel vehicles. Drivers who bought or leased these vehicles could now be entitled to compensation as part of this class action case – £10,000 or more each, according to PGMBM.

The news is the latest turn in a tumultuous story for FCA, which first appeared in February 2016 when Environmental Action Germany claimed that tests performed on a diesel Fiat 500X showed that the vehicle exceeded Euro 6 NOx limits by 11 to 22 times. A September 2016 report by the European Federation for Transport and Environment also ranked Fiat Euro 6 engines as the worst in Europe for excess NOx emissions.

In 2019, they agreed to a settlement worth $800m to resolve claims from the US Justice Department and the state of California relating to the use of illegal software that produced false results on diesel-emissions tests.

In July of this year, authorities in Germany, Italy and Switzerland raided FCA offices, as well as those of truck maker CNH Industrial, seeking evidence relating to the alleged use of so-called ‘defeat devices’ to mask vehicles’ diesel pollution output and pass emissions tests that they otherwise would not. FCA and CNH Industrial are both controlled by Exor, the holding company of Italy’s famous Agnelli family.

The new claim filed by lawyers PGMBM on behalf of affected drivers – the first in the UK – alleges that FCA committed fraud by manufacturing vehicles whose true diesel emissions far exceeded the limits imposed by EU and UK laws.

PGMBM Managing Partner Tom Goodhead said: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have misled drivers about the true diesel emissions that many of their vehicles produce. This is yet another instance of a huge automotive firm conning consumers – with a significant impact on the environment and our collective wellbeing.

“FCA must be held to account for these practices, and this case will give consumers the opportunity to pursue some justice and be compensated for being misled by a company that they may have trusted.

“Legally, consumers could be entitled to anything up to the full cost of the affected vehicles. But based on similar legal actions around the world, we believe that £10,000 per claimant should be expected.”

A defeat device detects when the engine is being tested and limits the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions produced to comply with regulatory standards, which would not be in effect in the course of normal road use by vehicle drivers. NOx is a significant factor in air pollution and respiratory conditions, particularly in young and vulnerable people.

Higher emissions of NOx pollutants can cause an increase in fuel and maintenance costs, as well as impairing vehicle performance. Toxic diesel emissions are also extremely harmful to people, especially children. The Royal College of Physicians claim that illegal levels of air pollution result in over 40,000 early deaths per year.

PGMBM estimate that half a million vehicles in England and Wales could be affected across FCA’s brand portfolio, which includes Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Suzuki and Iveco vehicles. Based on a projection of £10,000 compensation per affected vehicle, that could mean a potential £5bn liability for FCA.

An FCA spokesperson said: “FCA believes this claim to be totally without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against it.”

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