A growing number of people who own Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC diesels have joined class action lawsuits after the company admitted that emissions-controls shut off in cold temperatures. Plaintiffs are asking Mercedes to recall the vehicles and pay compensation.
Lawyers have filed several class action lawsuits demanding that Mercedes-Benz recall BlueTEC diesels for violating emissions laws. The company calls the allegations “unfounded” and plans on fighting the lawsuits instead of issuing a recall.
What is the problem?
Mercedes is accused of knowingly programming BlueTEC Clean Diesel vehicles to turn off emissions controls when temperatures drop below 50ºF.
The emissions-limiting features capture soot and convert toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) into less-harmful byproducts. However, the system requires frequent injections of fuel. Under demanding driving conditions, increasing emissions helps maintain performance.
Mercedes admitted that it helps protect the engine and exhaust system from condensation and corrosion. However, according to attorneys who filed several class action 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.”
Can the EPA Force Mercedes to Recall BlueTEC Diesels?
Yes. A federal law called the “Clean Air Act” gives the EPA authority to force car-makers to issue recalls and fix vehicles when a substantial percentage violate emissions laws. The EPA rarely has to use its authority because car-makers usually issue recalls voluntarily to avoid sanctions and fines.
Can a Recall Impact Resale Value?
Yes. If Mercedes does recall BlueTEC diesels, they will have to provide owners with a solution for the problem. The easiest fix is just updating the software to keep emissions-controls on regardless of temperature. However, due to the trade-off between performance and emissions, this could negatively impact performance, fuel-economy, long-term maintenance costs, and resale value — especially for cars in colder climates.
What Might Happen in a Recall?
Mercedes will have to design a solution for many types of vehicles, test vehicles to make sure emissions on the road are the same as those in the lab, and get approval from the EPA and other regulators before making repairs.
In the case of Volkswagen, negotiations with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have taken months. During this time, the cars have continued to emit dangerous levels of pollution.
Volkswagen has provided payments to car-owners, installed new parts on certain vehicles (catalytic converters and “flow transformer”), and may have to pay billions of dollars in fines to the Justice Department.