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FCA to recall 862,520 vehicles that don't meet U.S. emissions standards

David Shepardson, Reuters  /  March 13, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will recall 862,520 gasoline-powered vehicles in the United States that do not meet emissions standards, the EPA said on Wednesday.

The recall was prompted by in-use emissions investigations conducted by the EPA and testing conducted by Fiat Chrysler as required by EPA regulations, the agency said. The EPA said it will continue to investigate other Fiat Chrysler vehicles that are potentially non-compliant and may become the subject of future recalls.

“EPA welcomes the action by Fiat Chrysler to voluntarily recall its vehicles that do not meet U.S. emissions standards,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “We will provide assistance to consumers navigating the recall and continue to ensure that auto manufacturers abide by our nation’s laws designed to protect human health and the environment.”

The recall includes the 2011-2016 Dodge Journeys, 2011-2014 Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers and 2011-2012 Dodge Calibers.

FCA said another 103,221 vehicles are being recalled in Canada for the same reason. 

Not a safety issue

Fiat Chrysler said in a statement the EPA announcement "has no safety implications. Nor are there any associated fines."

"The issue was discovered by FCA during routine in-use emissions testing and reported to the agency," the company said. "We began contacting affected customers last month to advise them of the needed repairs, which will be provided at no charge."

The EPA said vehicle owners "will receive notification from FCA when parts are available for them to bring their vehicle in to be repaired. In the meantime, owners can continue to drive their vehicles."

"Due to the large number of vehicles involved and the need to supply replacement components -- specifically to the vehicle’s catalytic converter --  this recall will be implemented in phases during the 2019 calendar year beginning with the oldest vehicles first," the EPA said in its statement.

In January, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement worth about $800 million to resolve claims by the U.S. Justice Department and state of California that it used illegal software to produce false results on diesel-emissions tests. It is awaiting the outcome of a criminal probe.

The hefty penalty was the latest fallout from the U.S. government's stepped-up enforcement of vehicle emissions rules after Volkswagen Group admitted in September 2015 to intentionally evading emissions rules.

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Noose hanging at Ram plant adds to industry tensions

Gabrielle Coppola, Bloomberg  /  March 19, 2019

Fiat Chrysler workers discovered a noose hanging in a Ram truck plant in Michigan late last month, prompting a second investigation into racism at a factory already simmering with tension.

The company brought outside investigators into its Sterling Heights assembly plant to look into who hung the noose, commonly understood to be a threat of violence against African Americans, but hasn’t found the culprit.

“If and when that person is identified, their relationship with the company will be terminated,” the automaker said. “This type of behavior will simply not be tolerated.”

It’s the second internal investigation into racist harassment at the assembly plant north of Detroit since late 2017, according to people with knowledge of the events, and the latest in a series of racist incidents alleged at U.S. auto plants. At a UAW convention in Detroit last week, union members passed a set of resolutions that acknowledged “much more work to do” to secure protections against discrimination in the workplace.

“A rise in recent years of incidents targeting people based on their race, gender, immigration status, or religious beliefs is impossible to ignore and requires an aggressive response,” the resolution stated. General Motors faces allegations of racial harassment at a plant in Toledo, Ohio, while Ford has settled claims at a Chicago factory.

Fiat Chrysler workers at the Sterling Heights facility first reported ropes that looked like nooses hanging in the factory in late 2017, as the automaker started preparations for its new pickup, according to people familiar with the events, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak.

The company investigated and determined there was no malicious or racist intent, but together with the UAW agreed that workers wouldn’t leave knotted ropes hanging to avoid any further offense or misunderstanding.

Paint shop

Workers reported finding another noose between 1 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. local time on Feb. 22 in the paint shop at the Sterling Heights assembly plant, commonly called SHAP. The next day, on a Facebook page for UAW Local 1700, which represents workers at the factory, an anonymous post was shared alluding to “several disturbing incidents” at the plant in the last few months, including one as recently as that week.

“We must speak up and speak out when we are aware of heinous discriminatory acts being committed by co-workers,” the post reads. “Fear-mongering through race based attacks and antics should not and will NOT BE TOLERATED AT SHAP.”

The people with knowledge of the noose incidents said tensions have risen at the Sterling Heights plant since headcount ballooned to more than 7,000 hourly workers, from about 3,000, after the company overhauled the factory to make pickups instead of Chrysler and Dodge sedans.

A large portion of the new workers were transfers from a nearby Fiat Chrysler facility in Warren, Mich.. This influx has triggered conflicts over job placements and seniority, the people said.

A separate noose incident took place at another Fiat Chrysler factory last year. A subcontractor fired one of its employees at the automaker’s Toledo Jeep plant in June for hanging one, a Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman said, confirming an earlier report by The Toledo Blade newspaper.

Fiat Chrysler said it will continue to conduct training to “underscore the value of diversity and inclusion.”

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