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Law Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Mercedes Claiming ‘Defeat Device’ To Cheat Testing

Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit against Mercedes stating the automaker knowingly programmed its Clean Diesel BlueTEC vehicles to emit illegal, dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) in virtually all real world driving conditions and contain a “defeat device” used to cheat testing.

Testing at highway speeds, at low temperatures, and at variable speeds, indicate a systemic failure to meet emissions standards. Low temperature testing at highway speeds for example, produced emissions that were 8.1 to 19.7 times the highway emissions standard. The lawsuit adds that testing at low temperatures at variable speeds produced emissions as high as 30.8 times the standard.

“In virtually every road test the emissions were hardly as Mercedes promised as ‘the world’s cleanest and most advanced diesel…’ Mercedes vehicles do not meet emission standards in virtually all real world driving conditions,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit alleges that the following Mercedes models powered by BlueTEC diesel-fueled engines are affected by the unlawful, unfair, deceptive and otherwise defective emission controls utilized by Mercedes.

Affected vehicles include:

Mercedes ML 320
Mercedes ML 350
Mercedes GL 320
Mercedes E250
Mercedes E320
Mercedes S350
Mercedes R320
Mercedes E Class
Mercedes GL Class
Mercedes ML Class
Mercedes R Class
Mercedes S Class
Mercedes GLK Class
Mercedes GLE Class
Mercedes Sprinter

The original suit filed Feb. 18, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey accuses Mercedes of deceiving consumers with false representations of its BlueTEC vehicles, which it marketed as “the world’s cleanest and most advanced diesel” with “ultra-low emissions, high fuel economy and responsive performance” that emits “up to 30% lower greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline.”

Attorneys representing vehicle owners sought relief for those who purchased the affected vehicles, including injunctive relief in the form of a recall or free replacement program and restitution including either recovery of the purchase price or overpayment or diminution in value due to Mercedes’ misleading statements and omissions regarding the emission levels of its Clean Diesel BlueTEC vehicles. A $700 million settlement in the matter is pending the notice phase for eventual distribution to class members.

How does the Mercedes BlueTEC emissions system work?

– Initial reduction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) performed by the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.

– A diesel oxidation catalyst reduces the amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC) released from the exhaust and helps keep the particulate trap clean.

– A particulate filter traps and stores soot particles. The diesel oxidation catalyst upstream helps to remove the particles from the particulate trap, though the engine will occasionally remove excessive particulate buildup by raising the exhaust temperature.

– In some older model vehicles, a NOx storage catalyst will be used to perform the final removal of NOx from the exhaust before it exits the tailpipe..

– The vast majority of BlueTEC-equipped Mercedes in the US make use of a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) catalytic converter (instead of the NOx storage catalyst) to convert the remaining nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and water; so-called diesel exhaust fluid (or “DEF,” a solution of urea and water) is injected into the exhaust gas stream to enable the conversion. In order to prevent vehicles from breaking emissions regulations, the engine may go into a limp-home-mode if the DEF tank is depleted; drivers are instructed to keep the tank refilled as necessary. Some commercial vehicles are equipped with a request or inhibit switch which allows the DEF injection to be “postponed” as it can reduce power output and increase temperatures temporarily; if the vehicle is climbing a grade, for example, it may be necessary to delay the cycle.

According to the complaint, diesel engines pose a particularly difficult challenge to the environment because they have trade-off between power, fuel efficiency and emissions: the greater the power and fuel efficiency, the dirtier and more harmful the emissions.

“Car manufacturers have struggled to produce diesel engines that have high power and desirable fuel efficiency but also cleaner emissions,” reads the complaint.  “Mercedes’ response to the challenge has been the BlueTEC diesel engine.”

Compared to gasoline engines, diesel engines generally produce greater torque, low-end power, better drivability and much higher fuel efficiency.  But these benefits come at the cost of much dirtier and more harmful emissions, including NOx, which include a variety of nitrogen and oxygen chemical compounds that only form at high temperatures.

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