Federal prosecutors unsealed charges against two Italian nationals Tuesday for their alleged role in a conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators and customers about the fuel efficiency of more than 100,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Sergio Pasini, 43, of Ferrera, Italy, and Gianluca Sabbioni, 55, of Sala Bolognese, Italy — two senior diesel managers at FCA Italy, a subsidiary of Stellantis N.V. — conducted their alleged scheme with Emanuele Palma, 42, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., who was charged in 2019.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said in an email that the two Italian managers are not in custody. The indictment says they worked for an Italian diesel manufacturing company called VM Motori S.p.A. in Cento, Italy, which was 50 percent owned by Fiat Chrysler in 2010 and became a fully owned FCA subsidiary in 2013.
Palma remains free on bond while awaiting trial.
The indictment says Pasini, Sabbioni and Palma were responsible for developing and calibrating the 3.0-liter diesel engine used in the 2014-16 models of the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The filing says their work included calibrating several software features in the vehicles' emissions control systems to meet emissions standards.
But federal prosecutors in Detroit said the three managers and their co-conspirators purposely calibrated the emissions control functions to produce lower nitrogen oxide emissions "under conditions when the subject vehicles would be undergoing testing on the federal test procedures or driving 'cycles,' and higher NOx emissions under conditions when the subject vehicles would be driven in the real world."
Prosecutors allege that the defendants and their co-conspirators referred to the practice as "cycle beating." Doing this led FCA "to achieve best-in-class fuel efficiency and make the subject vehicles more attractive to FCA's potential customers," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say the three allegedly "made and caused others to make false and misleading representations to FCA's regulators about the emissions control functions of the subject vehicles in order to ensure that FCA obtained regulatory approval to sell the subject vehicles in the United States."
"We continue to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice, as we have throughout this issue," Stellantis said in an emailed statement.
The company declined to comment further or specify the employment status of the three managers.