Ford Motor Co. revealed on Friday that it is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice into its emissions certification process.
The announcement was buried in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in which Ford noted it “has become aware of potential concern” over its procedures for testing emissions. The company said that the issues relate to “road load” estimations, which involve measuring the forces on a car when it’s traveling over a smooth, level surface at a constant speed. Those measurements affect a vehicle’s emissions and fuel economy.
However, Ford said that the matter “does not involve the use of defeat devices,” which are meant to generate false test results, allowing cars to pass inspection when they wouldn’t have otherwise.
The company then acknowledged it is the target of a government probe.
“Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into the matter,” the filing says. “In addition, we have notified a number of other state and federal agencies. We are fully cooperating with all government agencies.”
Furthermore, Ford said that because it is still early, “we cannot predict the outcome, and we cannot provide assurance that it will not have a material adverse effect on us.”
In February, the company announced that it was conducting its own investigation using an outside firm that would look at emissions certifications.
In a statement to HuffPost on Friday, Ford sustainability, environment and safety engineering vice president Kim Pittel said the company’s probe is continuing, and that it is “working with regulators and independent experts to complete a technical review, as planned.”
That includes the DOJ, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.
“The Department of Justice contacted us earlier this month the let us know they had opened a criminal investigation,” Pittel said. “Ford is fully cooperating with the government, and we’ll keep them posted on what we’re finding through out investigation and technical review.”
Pittel added that the DOJ has previously “taken an interest in fuel economy and emissions issues in the auto sector.”
“Defeat devices” came on the public’s radar in 2015 when regulators discovered Volkswagen was using the emissions test-cheating software on millions of its so-called “clean diesel” vehicles worldwide. The scandal resulted in criminal charges against the company and executives, and billions of dollars in fines and settlements around the world, including offers to buy back the vehicles.