A sign outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles world headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File
Washington – The US government has filed a civil lawsuit accusing Fiat Chrysler of using software to bypass emission controls in diesel vehicles.

The US Justice Department suit which was filed in the US District court in Detroit, is a procedural step that may ramp up pressure on Fiat Chrysler.

The suit could ultimately help lead to a settlement, as in an earlier probe of rival Volkswagen that will cost VW up to $25 billion (R330 billion), but which affected a much larger number of vehicles.

VW admitted to intentionally cheating while Fiat Chrysler denies wrongdoing.

It did not immediately comment yesterday. US-listed Fiat Chrysler shares were down 2.9 percent at $10.44.

Read also: Fiat Chrysler spends $1bn on US

The suit also names Fiat Chrysler’s unit VM Motori, which designed the engine in question.