This lawsuit alleged that the Mercedes-Benz company deceived consumers about their “clean diesel” emissions: the company’s “earth friendly” BlueTEC diesel engine emissions were up to 65 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide when operated in real-world conditions.
In 2020, Mercedes-Benz agreed to pay more than $2 billion to settle these “clean diesel” claims, $700 million of which went to consumers. Of that total, $1.5 billion represents a settlement with various U.S. authorities: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, the Department of Justice, the California Attorney General’s Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
For consumers, the settlement guarantees free installation of Approved Emissions Modifications (AEMs) in affected vehicles. Installation comes with an extended modification warranty that covers any unforeseen effects due to an AEM, such as changes to a vehicle’s fuel economy, horsepower, torque. Should the installation of an AEM take more than three hours to complete, transportation costs may also be provided.
The Mercedes-Benz company marketed its BlueTEC diesel vehicles as environmentally “friendly” and charged a premium for that “green” technology. The company is accused of defrauding consumers with false claims that the automobiles are “clean” vehicles, producing 30% fewer greenhouse gases without informing consumers that the engines become “dirty diesels” when operated in moderate and low temperatures, under 50 degrees. Testing has shown that BlueTEC diesel Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions may be 19 to over 65 times the legal limit established by the U.S. Environmental Testing Agency.
Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC diesels do employ a control system intended to reduce emissions, but a device within the automobile may turn off those controls when temperatures fall below 50 degrees. This leaves consumers, who paid a high price for a clean-technology luxury vehicle, driving cars that are dirtier than gasoline cars and may result in the value of the vehicle depreciating prematurely.
Cited in the lawsuit, a study conducted by a European testing agency which was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, concluded that laboratory testing and real-world usage may produce different emissions output but stated that all of the models tested were much, much higher than allowed. Vehicles in both the U.S. and Europe have been affected and Mercedes-Benz may be facing additional sanctions outside of the U.S.
Affected Mercedes-Benz models using BlueTEC technology include:
- E250 – 2014-2016
E350 – 2011-2013
GL320 – 2009
GL350 – 2010-2016
GLE300d – 2016
GLE350d – 2016
GLK250 – 2013-2015
ML250 – 2015
ML320 – 2009
ML350 – 2010-2014
R320 – 2009
R350 – 2010-2012
S350 – 2012-2013
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (4-cylinder) – 2014-2016
Freightliner Sprinter (4-cylinder) – 2014-2016
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (6-cylinder) – 2010-2016
Freightliner Sprinter (6-cylinder) – 2010-2016
The vehicles sold in Europe have come under fire along with U.S. models.
This lawsuit is slightly different from recent discoveries about Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel engines which used computer software to “defeat” emissions testing. In those vehicles, emissions controls did not operate unless the engine was undergoing testing. When the cars were driven normally, emission controls systems were not employed. Volkswagen has admitted that their diesel emissions tests were rigged and there may be more than 11 million affected VWs worldwide.
This is not the first class-action lawsuit Mercedes has faced in the recent past. In March of 2015, Mercedes-Benz settled a class action lawsuit for defective engine parts. Each plaintiff was determined to be entitled to repair of affected vehicles at a Mercedes-Benz dealer or up to $4,000 if repairs were performed elsewhere. Some lawsuit participants may have been eligible for additional coverage as well. A prior case, filed in 2010, also claimed that engines were defective.
The February 2016 class action lawsuit filed against Mercedes for illegally high emissions on its BlueTEC diesel vehicles states that exposure to high levels of pollutants like the BlueTEC diesels are emitting have been linked with serious health concerns including lung and heart-related medical conditions.
In addition to claims of defrauding the consumer, the lawsuit asks for the court to require that Mercedes recall, repair or replace affected vehicles and asks that consumers who purchased expensive, luxury vehicles which were supposed to be environmentally friendly, be compensated for diminished value of their automobiles.