Mercedes-Benz is facing several class action lawsuits from consumers who say BlueTEC Clean Diesel cars were marketed as “environmentally-friendly,” but actually spew toxic pollution when the temperatures falls below 50ºF.
Mercedes-Benz markets BlueTEC Clean Diesel as cleaner, more powerful, and fuel-efficient than traditional gas-burning vehicles. The trade-off is that diesel vehicles emit more pollutants like nitrogen-oxide (NOx).
BlueTEC diesels have several features to reduce pollution, including a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to convert NOx into harmless gases like oxygen and nitrogen. It also has a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), which captures and removes particles (soot) to prevent smog emissions.
Mercedes BlueTEC Class Action Lawsuits
In February 2016, three class action (PDF) lawsuits accused Mercedes of misleading consumers about BlueTEC vehicles. Lawyers say Mercedes installed illegal software on the cars that shuts off emissions-cleaning features when the ambient temperature drops below 50ºF.
Mercedes says the features turn off to protect the engine and exhaust system from condensation that could cause corrosion, which is not illegal. However, they never disclosed this to consumers. On average, the cars emit 19-times the acceptable level of NOx, and up to 65-times the limit in some cases, according to the lawsuits.
The first class action was filed by a woman from Illinois named Ulyana Lynevych. She bought a Mercedes ML 350 SUV in August 2014 based in part on marketing claims promoting low emissions. According to the lawsuit:
“Mercedes never disclosed to consumers that Mercedes diesels with BlueTEC engines may be ‘clean’ diesels when it is warm, but are ‘dirty’ diesels when it is not. Mercedes never disclosed that, when the temperature drops below 50 degrees, it prioritizes engine power and profits over people.”
Lawyers representing Lynevych rapidly followed up her claim with two more class actions (PDF) lawsuits on behalf of individuals in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. They are seeking to represent everyone in the United States who owns a Mercedes BlueTEC Clean Diesel vehicle.
What Do the Class Actions Demand?
They are asking the courts to issue an injunction that would force Mercedes to recall the vehicles. They also want Mercedes to repair the problem, provide loaner cars in the meantime, and reimburse consumers for lost resale value and other costs.
Easiest Fix Could Impact Resale Value
It is unclear whether the scandal will lessen the value of the cars. Reducing emissions could affect vehicle performance and longevity, which is why the easiest fix — simply updating the software — could decrease resale value.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked Mercedes for an explanation that includes test results for its diesel engines in the United States. The agency regulates nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions because they are known to cause health problems, including respiratory diseases like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and cancer. Breathing NOx can also aggravate existing heart disease.
Mercedes BlueTEC Clean Diesel Vehicles
- ML 320
- ML 350
- GL 320
- S 350
- E 320
- R 320
- E Class
- GL Class
- ML Class
- R Class
- S Class
- GLK Class
- GLE Class