Mercedes BlueTEC diesels were marketed toward environmentally-conscious consumers as “low emission” vehicles, but they were never told that emissions controls turn off when temperatures fall below 50ºF. Now, lawyers are demanding a recall to fix the problem and compensation for owners.
Mercedes Recall Lawyers Demand Injunction
Class action lawyers are seeking a court order compelling Mercedes to recall BlueTEC diesels or replace them for free, in addition to paying compensation. The auto-maker has called allegations “baseless” and does not plan on recalling the cars.
EPA Has Authority to Order Recall
The problem is that manufacturers must sell cars that meet emission standards. Under Section 207 of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to force car-makers to issue recalls when a substantial number of cars do not meet emissions standards in “real-world” conditions.
The EPA can also require manufacturers to fix affected vehicles. It is very rare for the EPA to have to exercise this authority. Most car-makers issue recalls and repair vehicles voluntarily to avoid sanctions and fines. The EPA has asked Mercedes to provide diesel emissions data, but stopped short of opening an official investigation.
Recalling Vehicles Could Impact Resale
Mercedes may decide to recall BlueTEC diesels and provide owners with a repair. The simplest solution is just updating the software to keep emissions-cleaning features on all the time. However, reducing emissions in demanding driving conditions could negatively impact performance. Owners may have increased fuel and maintenance costs, which could impact resale value.
What Might Happen in a Recall?
If Mercedes recalls the vehicles, they would have to fix emissions on many different types of vehicles. They would need to design a solution, test it to make sure it works, and get permission from the EPA and other regulators. In the case of Volkswagen, negotiations have taken months, despite the company agreeing to pay compensation and install new catalytic converters and a and flow transformer.
What is the problem?
In February 2016, a law firm in Seattle filed class action lawsuits alleging that certain Mercedes BlueTEC Clean Diesel vehicles emit dangerous levels of nitrogen-oxides (NOx) in cold temperatures. According to the lawsuits:
“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.”
When temperatures drop below 50ºF, emissions-control features turn off. Citing independent tests carried out by a company commissioned by the Dutch government, lawyers say BlueTEC diesels emit 19-times the legal limit of NOx on average, and up to 65-times in certain cases.
Vehicles May Have High Emissions All Winter
Emissions tests are carried out at ambient temperatures, above those at which BlueTEC features turn off. This means the vehicles will pass EPA standards when tested in a lab. On the road, the average winter temperatures in more than half of the United States drop below 50ºF. In some states, temperatures do not reach 50ºF for months, meaning that emissions controls rarely turns on.