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Ford says Justice Department has opened criminal inquiry into emissions issues

The Justice Department has opened a criminal inquiry into Ford Motor’s emissions-certification process, the latest government investigation involving the auto industry’s compliance with pollution standards.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission today, Ford said that it had also notified several other state and federal agencies about concerns over its emissions and fuel-efficiency testing, and that it was cooperating with all government inquiries.

The Justice Department investigation, which is focused on “issues relating to road load estimations,” is in its “preliminary stages” but could damage Ford’s financial health, the company said.

Ford said in February that it was investigating employee concerns about the company’s computer-modeling methods and calculations used to measure fuel economy and emissions.

The company said then that it had notified the Environmental Protection Agency about the issue and had hired a law firm to investigate specifications used in its testing. Today, Ford said it had disclosed the potential problem to the California Air Resources Board around the same time. The Justice Department stepped in afterward, according to the securities filing.

Ford said its concerns did not involve the so-called defeat device software implicated in Volkswagen’s yearslong scheme to cheat on emissions tests.

Ford was informed of the Justice Department investigation this month, said Kim Pittel, the automaker’s group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

“Our focus is on completing our investigation and a thorough technical review of this matter and cooperating with government and regulatory agencies,” Pittel said in a statement today.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

In January, after being sued by the Justice Department, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay nearly $800 million to settle claims that it had equipped some of its vehicles with illegal emissions-management software.

European authorities said this month that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW had secretly agreed to install inferior pollution-controlling equipment in their vehicles, contributing to the region’s poor air quality. In the United States, Volkswagen has been sued by the SEC over the diesel scheme. The company has also been hit with more than $33 billion in fines and legal settlements tied to the scandal; Martin Winterkorn, its former chief executive, and several other Volkswagen managers face criminal charges in Germany.

On Thursday, Ford announced first-quarter earnings that were better than expected, with strong sales of its trucks and SUVs in the United States. The company’s stock rose more than 10 percent today.

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