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March 2, 2015 — Mercedes-Benz has been hit with several federal class actions in New Jersey by owners who say BlueTEC diesel vehicles have software that shuts off emissions controls in cold weather.

At least three class actions (PDF) have been filed by plaintiffs in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. In response, the EPA requested information to explain emissions levels, but has not opened a formal investigation.

Lawsuits were filed shortly after Mercedes admitted that the shut-off is done to protect the engine, which the car-maker insists is not illegal, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The shut-off prevents condensation from building up in the exhaust system, which could lead to corrosion and damage the effectiveness of the engine and exhaust system, Reuters reports.

When the temperature drops below 50ºF, the car shuts off systems that catch soot and convert toxic emissions into harmless gases. This results in the cars emitting an average of 19-times the legal limit of nitrogen-oxide (NOx), and up to 65-times the limit in certain cases.

The feature was not disclosed to consumers. Instead, “BlueTEC Clean Diesel” vehicles were marketed as more environmentally-friendly than gas engines. Lawyers say fixing the problem could impact performance and resale value. According to the complaint:

“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.”

Lawyers have proposed a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone in the United States who bought or leased an affected vehicle, such as the following 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
  • Sprinter