A car releases a plume of smoke as it turns down a road.

Vehicle Emissions Fraud

Note: This sec­tion focus­es on cor­po­rate fraud relat­ed to vehi­cle emis­sions test­ing. Infor­ma­tion on state AGs’ legal fight over the Trump administration’s pro­pos­al to roll back nation­al clean car stan­dards can be found here.

Fol­low­ing the set­tle­ment with Volk­swa­gen for employ­ing emis­sions defeat devices in diesel-pow­ered vehi­cles, state attor­neys gen­er­al have con­tin­ued to pro­tect con­sumers and the pub­lic health by crack­ing down on automak­ers who design vehi­cles that spew air pol­lu­tion in excess of emis­sions lim­its. In par­tic­u­lar, attor­neys gen­er­al have secured set­tle­ments with automak­ers that have used defeat device soft­ware to evade emis­sions stan­dards and have pur­sued legal action against automak­ers that have alleged­ly defraud­ed con­sumers by false­ly mar­ket­ing clean diesel vehicles.”

Fiat Chrysler

Fifty-two attor­neys gen­er­al par­tic­i­pat­ed in a mul­ti-year inves­ti­ga­tion of Fiat Chrysler Auto­mo­biles’ (Fiat) instal­la­tion of ille­gal defeat devices in diesel vehi­cles sold through­out the Unit­ed States. Fiat pro­mot­ed the diesel vehi­cles as clean” and green,” even though the vehi­cles includ­ed soft­ware that allowed the vehi­cles to sat­is­fy lim­its on nitro­gen oxide emis­sions lim­its dur­ing emis­sions test­ing, but oth­er­wise exceed­ed legal lim­its dur­ing real-world driving.

  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, the coali­tion of fifty-two attor­neys gen­er­al reached a set­tle­ment with Fiat for the employ­ment of the defeat devices that vio­lat­ed fed­er­al Clean Air Act and state envi­ron­men­tal and con­sumer pro­tec­tion statutes. Under the set­tle­ment, Fiat is required to fix the affect­ed vehi­cles, pro­vide resti­tu­tion to its cus­tomers and pay over $70 mil­lion in civ­il penal­ties to the fifty-two states par­tic­i­pat­ing in the set­tle­ment agreement.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, California’s attor­ney gen­er­al worked with the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) to con­duct a sim­i­lar inves­ti­ga­tion of Fiat. The inves­ti­ga­tion con­clud­ed that Fiat’s use of defeat device soft­ware vio­lat­ed fed­er­al and state air emis­sions stan­dards and Cal­i­for­nia con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws.

  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra and the EPA announced a joint set­tle­ment val­ued at more than $500 mil­lion to resolve the alle­ga­tions stem­ming from the inves­ti­ga­tion. The set­tle­ment includes over $19 mil­lion to ful­ly mit­i­gate the excess nitro­gen oxide emis­sions from the impact­ed vehi­cles and requires Fiat to offer con­sumers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to mod­i­fy affect­ed vehi­cles to bring the vehi­cles into com­pli­ance with emis­sions limits.

  • May 2019

    A fed­er­al dis­trict court in Cal­i­for­nia approved the set­tle­ment in May 2019, while also approv­ing a class action set­tle­ment that will allow the dri­vers of the approx­i­mate­ly 13,500 impact­ed vehi­cles in the state to begin apply­ing for relief, includ­ing vehi­cle emis­sions mod­i­fi­ca­tions and mon­e­tary compensation.


  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, Ari­zona Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mark Brnovich filed a com­plaint against automak­er Mer­cedes-Benz (Mer­cedes) for alleged­ly defraud­ing res­i­dents of the state through the mar­ket­ing of clean diesel” vehi­cles. Accord­ing to the law­suit, con­sumers did not receive the clean, fuel effi­cient vehi­cles they expect­ed when they pur­chased or leased its BlueTEC vehi­cles as the vehi­cles were installed with defeat devices that hid the high-lev­els of nitro­gen oxide pol­lu­tants the vehi­cles emit­ted. The com­plaint alleges the vehi­cles failed to sat­is­fy fed­er­al and state air pol­lu­tion emis­sions stan­dards under real world dri­ving con­di­tions. The law­suit seeks resti­tu­tion and dam­ages for Ari­zo­ni­ans alleged­ly harmed by Mer­cedes’ prac­tices and civ­il penal­ties against Mer­cedes. Arizona’s lit­i­ga­tion against Mer­cedes is ongoing.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra filed a con­sent decree in fed­er­al dis­trict court in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia against Mer­cedes for vio­lat­ing emis­sions con­trol require­ments in some of its diesel vehi­cles. The con­sent decree set­tles alle­ga­tions that Mer­cedes installed defeat device soft­ware in its Sprint­er vans and pas­sen­ger vehi­cles from mod­el year 2009 through mod­el year 2016 in vio­la­tion of Cal­i­for­nia law. Under the con­sent decree, Mer­cedes will pay Cal­i­for­nia near­ly $300 mil­lion, includ­ing $17.5 mil­lion, a part of which will sup­port envi­ron­men­tal­ly-ben­e­fi­cial projects in California.