UPDATE: The story has been updated to include a full press release from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on the Napleton Automotive Group's allegations.

A Chicago-based dealership group has filed an explosive lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles accusing the company of paying dealers to fake new-vehicle sales, Automotive News reports.

Edward Napleton, president of the Napleton Automotive Group, filed the suit on Tuesday. It claims that FCA offered Napleton money to fudge end-of-month sales figures. According to the filing, dealers would report false transactions, only to "back out" at the start of a new month "before the factory warranty on the vehicles could be processed and start to run."

According to Automotive News, FCA was aware of the false reports and rewarded dealership managers for hitting sales targets. The lawsuit cites one example at Napleton Arlington Heights Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram where an FCA business center manager offered Napleton $20,000 "to falsely report the sales of 40 new vehicles." The payment would be disguised "as a co-op advertising credit to the dealer's account." Such a move would prevent a sales audit, AN reports.

Napleton rejected the deal, telling FCA it was illegal. He later learned a similar arrangement was made with a competing dealer to falsify the sale of 85 vehicles. They were given "tens of thousands of dollars as an illicit reward for their complicity in the scheme."

FCA has vehemently denied the accusation in a statement obtained by Automotive News.

"While the lawsuit has not yet been served on FCA US, the company believes that the claim is without merit and was filed by internal counsel to the dealer group as FCA US has concurrently been discussing with the dealer group the need to meet its obligations under some of its dealer agreements," the statement said. "The company is confident in the integrity of its business processes and dealer arrangements and intends to defend this action vigorously."

There are additional allegations, as well, claiming FCA "strong-armed its dealers to achieve sales numbers" and accusing the company of maintaining a "pattern of conduct towards its dealers [that] has been one of coercion and threats of termination having nothing to do with the actual performance of its dealers."

FCA is riding a wave of 69 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains. More on this one as it becomes available.
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FCA Strongly Rejects Allegations by Two U.S. Dealers

January 14, 2016 , London - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. ("FCA") (NYSE: FCAU / MTA: FCA) learned late yesterday of the filing of a lawsuit in an Illinois Federal Court by two U.S. dealers located in Illinois and Florida. The named defendants are FCA US LLC ("FCA US") and FCA Realty LLC. The dealer plaintiffs are two dealerships of the larger Ed Napleton Automotive Group.

The lawsuit makes allegations of false sales reporting by FCA US. Notwithstanding numerous requests to provide evidence of this alleged activity, the plaintiffs have refused to substantiate their claims. FCA US carried out an investigation of the facts, and has determined that these allegations are baseless and plaintiffs were notified of this fact before they filed suit.

This lawsuit is nothing more than the product of two disgruntled dealers who have failed to perform their obligations under the dealer agreements they signed with FCA US. They have consistently failed to perform since at least 2012, and have also used the threats of litigation over the last several months in a wrongful attempt to compel FCA US to reserve special treatment for them, including the allocation of additional open points in the US FCA network.

FCA US will continue to resist these pressures, safeguarding the relationship of trust and openness which governs its relationship with its dealers. FCA finds it unfortunate and disappointing that reputable media would be willing to be used in questionable litigation practices without a full understanding of the facts.

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