The U.S. Justice Department plans to file a civil lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV over excess diesel emissions as early as this week if no agreement is reached with the Italian-American automaker, two sources briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January accused FCA of illegally using undisclosed software to allow excess diesel emissions in about 104,000 cars and SUVs, the result of a probe that stemmed from regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG.
The EPA and California Air Resources Board have been in talks with FCA about the excess emissions and whether the agencies would approve the sale of 2017 FCA diesel models.
A federal judge in California has set a May 24 hearing on a series of lawsuits filed by owners of vehicles against Fiat Chrysler and the Justice Department is expected to file its action by then if no agreement is reached.
FCA said on Wednesday it believed that any litigation would be "counterproductive" to ongoing discussions with the EPA and California Air Resources Board.
The company added that "in the case of any litigation, FCA US will defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company deliberately installed defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests."
The Justice Department took the same procedural step in early 2016 against Volkswagen, nearly four months after the German company admitted using software to emit excess diesel emissions in nearly 500,000 vehicles.