NEWARK (CN) - In a federal class action similar to the Volkswagen scandal, Mercedes-Benz is accused of programming shutoff devices in its "Clean Diesel" engines to disguise pollution levels "more than 65 times higher" than permitted by law.
Lead plaintiff Ulyana Lynevych sued Mercedes-Benz USA on Feb. 18. She claims that road testing has showed that the Mercedes vehicles "emit dangerous oxides of nitrogen at a level at a level more than 65 times higher than the United States Environmental Protection Agency permits."
Mercedes "vigorously" marketed its BlueTEC diesel engine as "the world's cleanest and most advanced diesel" with "ultra-low emissions, high fuel economy and responsive performance" that emitted "up to 30 percent lower greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline," Lynevych says in the 58-page lawsuit.
Mercedes claims that its BlueTEC diesel engines "convert the nitrogen oxide emissions into harmless nitrogen and oxygen" and "reduces the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gases by up to 90 percent." It calls its Clean Diesel fleet "earth friendly," and adds that "with BlueTEC, cleaner emissions are now an equally appealing benefit," according to the complaint. "In fact, Mercedes proclaims itself as 'No. 1 in CO2 emissions for luxury vehicles.'"
But Mercedes programmed its BlueTEC vehicles to turn off nitrogen reduction systems when ambient temperatures dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, Lynevych says. She says that Mercedes has acknowledged that a shutoff device in the engine management of some BlueTEC diesel cars stops nitrogen scrubbing.
Road testing showed that the Clean Diesel cars emit 19 times more nitrogen than permitted by U.S. standards and 7.5 times more than the Euro 6 standard, according to the complaint.
Instantaneous nitrogen values in the vehicles peaked at 2000 mg/km: 25 times the Euro 6 standard and 65 times higher than the federal limit, Lynevych claims.
The Mercedes models affected include ML 320, ML 350, GL 320, E320, S350, R320, E Class, GL Class, ML Class, R Class, S Class, GLK Class, GLE Class and Sprinter, the complaint states.
"Mercedes manufactures, designs, markets, sells, and leases certain 'BlueTEC Clean Diesel' vehicles as if they were 'reduced emissions' cars that comply with all applicable regulatory standards, when in fact, these Mercedes vehicles are not 'clean diesels' and emit more pollutants than allowed by federal and state laws - and far more than their gasoline fueled counterparts," the lawsuit states.
Volkswagen faces more than 100 class action lawsuits and billions of dollars in potential fines on similar claims: that it programmed "clean diesel" engines to turn off emissions controls when vehicles were not being tested.
VW admitted in September 2015 that 11 million diesel autos worldwide had the cheating software installed. At least 600,000 of them were sold in the United States, the federal government claimed in January. That lawsuit included Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi engines.
Lynevych's attorney Steve Berman, with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, called Mercedes' environmental efforts a "sham."
"Mercedes never divulged to consumers that BlueTEC diesels pollute at illegal levels when driven at lower temperatures and that its 'champion of the environment' mantra was a sham," Berman said. "It appears that Mercedes has been caught in a similar scheme as Volkswagen and programmed these BlueTEC vehicles to pollute, all the while reaping profits from those who have fallen victim to its aggressive and deceptive eco-conscious branding.
"Mercedes' deception involves a cover-up of even higher levels of pollution, and consumers paid high prices for these luxury vehicles they thought were clean, only to be forced to drive diesel cars dirtier than their gasoline counterparts."
Mercedes spokesman Matthias Brock told Courthouse News: "We believe the complaint is without merit. ... We are reviewing the documents and will defend ourselves."
Lynevych seeks class certification, an injunction and punitive damages for violation of consumer protection laws, breach of contract, fraud and deceptive trade.
She is represented by James Cecchi with Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Angelo of Roseland, N.J., and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro's Seattle office.
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