Is the Ecodiesel Done? Maybe not…

No model-year 2017 Ram 1500 or Grand Cherokee EcoDiesels have been available at dealerships. After much speculation that Fiat Chrysler USA (FCA) ran into trouble with the EPA, the EPA announced a Notice of Violation in January of 2017 & formally filed charges against FCA in March. Is this the end of the EcoDiesel?

The narrative reads nearly identically to the original VW “DieselGate” – cars stop appearing on lots, a few months go by without any sort of explanation, then, the EPA announces they have been investigating emissions violations and are suing the manufacturer. Unlike VW, however, FCA has FIRMLY denied the EPA charges of emissions cheating.

Recalls

One tip-off that something was going on was a string of emissions related recalls. First, the 2014 models were recalled for a malfunctioning SCR (DEF) system, and all 2014s were outfitted with new SCR catalysts.

Later, in June 2016, FCA pushed out a strange pseudo-recall “Technical Service Bulletin”, or TSB.  It required that ALL unsold inventory be held until 1) the ECU was reprogrammed and 2) the engine oil was DRAINED and replaced with a different specification (MS-10902).

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TSB # 18-078-16

What was strange about this was that the FCA did not make this a traditional recall and did not send notifications to owners. Rather, the new ECU program and the oil drain was directed to be done at the next time the vehicle came in for service. This understandably caused a lot of confusion on the enthusiast communities like Ecodieselram.com and ram1500diesel.com – owners were not sure why the oil specification was changed, why it seemed urgent for unsold inventory but not urgent for trucks already on the road, and which oil existing owners without the new programming should use.

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Dealers instructed to refill engine with Rotella brand oil

In retrospect, the oil specification recall fits an emissions related recall. If FCA knew about an emissions violation and continued to sell the vehicles it would be a huge problem. However, for vehicles that were already sold FCA didn’t want to raise any alarms and probably predicted that the EPA would direct them toward some sort of recall anyway.

Progress

In May of 2017 FCA filed for recertification of the EcoDiesel drivetrain with both the EPA and CARB (California Air Resources Board), announcing that new software had been developed to address concerns that the EPA had. In early July, reports surfaced that FCA has resumed EcoDiesel production. No official announcement was made, but workers on the assembly line reported that the factory was making EcoDiesels once again. It seems doubtful that FCA would put resources into producing trucks if it did not believe that their application for certification would be approved soon.

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FCA’s commitment to bringing the diesel back into the half-ton lineup confirms that there is strong demand for diesel engines in the segment.  Even with the new “EcoBoost” engines, Ford has officially added a diesel power plant to its F-150 plans, and rumors have surfaced that Chevrolet would soon follow with a diesel powered Silverado half-ton as well. Chevrolet already has a “Duramax” diesel option in the much less popular Colorado, and along with the new Cruze and Equinox diesels, clearly has diesel on its plans for the future.

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