GM Accused of VW-Style Cheating on Emissions


     LOS ANGELES (CN) — General Motors is the latest automaker to be accused of lying about emissions from diesel-powered cars, as Volkswagen prepares to finalize a settlement in its emissions-cheating scandal.
     A federal class action filed Wednesday that could cover thousands of owners claims the automaker's Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel models regularly spew out far more pollutants than federal standards allow — up to 21 times more.
     Yet GM allegedly charged buyers a premium of $2,000 to $2,400 for the cars it advertised as "clean," in what the lawsuit calls "a gross deception" of buyers.
     Wednesday's lawsuit comes a day after another class action was filed in Manhattan Federal Court, accusing GM of overstating the miles-per-gallon ratings for several of its SUVs. That complaint accuses the automaker of fraud and breach of implied warranties for allegedly misrepresenting vehicle fuel efficiency.
     The June 22 complaint comes from Seattle-based class-action specialists Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. Attorneys from the firm co-led the litigation over unintended acceleration by Toyotas and are heavily involved in the Volkswagen diesel emissions case. Earlier this year, the firm also sued Mercedes-Benz, alleging cheating on diesel emissions.
     "GM manufactures, designs, markets, sells, and leases the Cruze 'Clean Diesel' vehicle as if it were a 'reduced emissions' car that complies with all applicable regulatory standards, when in fact, this GM vehicle is not 'clean diesel' and emits more pollutants than allowed by federal and state laws—and far more than their gasoline fueled counterparts and far more than what a reasonable consumer would expect from a 'Clean Diesel,'" the firm's 308-page lawsuit declares.
     "GM never disclosed to consumers that its Cruze diesel engines may be 'clean' diesels in very limited circumstances, but are 'dirty' diesels under most driving conditions," the complaint states.
     General Motors disputed the lawsuit's accusations.
     "These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves," the automaker said in a statement. "GM believes the Chevrolet Cruze turbo diesel complies with all U.S. EPA and [California Air Resources Board] emissions regulations."
     According to the June 22 complaint, the U.S. versions of the diesel Cruze sold from 2014 until early 2016 appear to be based on diesel vehicles sold in Europe under GM's Opel brand. In May, GM announced it would recall those Opels in Germany because the government there had found the cars emit more pollutants, specifically nitrogen oxides, in real-world testing than in laboratory testing.
     GM stopped producing diesel Chevy Cruzes in the U.S. in January, just a few months after the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal broke, the lawsuit notes. The company is now making a new version of the Cruze but not in a diesel model.
     Experts for the class action plaintiffs' side conducted their own real-world testing of some U.S. Cruze diesels and found startling results, according to the complaint.
     For instance, while EPA standards limit the emissions of nitrogen oxides to 50 milligrams per mile in stop-and-go driving, the Cruze diesels tested put out as much as 1,051 milligrams per mile and averaged 287 milligrams per mile, the lawsuit states.
     At highway speeds, the diesel cars allegedly emitted from 1.8 times to 8 times the amount set by federal standards.
     The test results indicate that the cars must use a "defeat device" to block pollution controls and boost power when on the road, according to the lawsuit.
     "Diesel emissions fraud didn't stop with Volkswagen or Mercedes," lead class counsel Steve Berman said in a statement. "GM has proven that it too placed greed and profits ahead of thousands of owners who paid premium prices for what they thought were clean diesel cars."
     The class action names six lead plaintiffs from as many states: Oscar Zamora of California, Brandon Stone of Arizona, Jason Silveus of Florida, Jason Counts of Michigan, Thomas Hayduk of New York, and Joshua Hurst of Ohio.
     They seek court orders requiring GM to buy back class members' cars or refund the diesel premiums they paid, as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
     The Associated Press reported Thursday that Volkswagen will pay about $10.2 billion to settle its own emissions-cheating scandal.