Auto giant General Motors has been accused of manufacturing and releasing a modified and manipulated emissions system in select Chevy Cruze vehicles that conceal true emissions contrary to the company’s advertising and federal regulatory standards. The alleged cheating by the Cruze emissions system is the focus of a recently filed class action case that, among other things, alleges the manufacturer created a cheat system that concealed the true level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) released by these vehicles. These allegations come in the wake of major allegations, and some settlements, against other manufacturers for similar emissions cheating. While General Motors denies their Chevy-branded vehicles violate regulatory standards as alleged by the Plaintiffs, it remains to be seen if a class settlement will develop that significantly impacts the legal rights of current and former owners.
Much like their peers in the diesel vehicle category, General Motors is accused of manufacturing their Chevy Cruze to circumvent federal emission standards through cheat software. This software essentially detects when the vehicle is in a testing environment and adjusts performance, and the release of emissions particles, accordingly. Because emissions testing involves the use of, essentially, a treadmill to test the vehicle in a laboratory setting, cheat software is designed to detect instances where speed is maintained consistently or the steering wheel is not moved over the course of time. While real-world driving conditions would involve changes in speed or direction, the testing environment involves ‘straight ahead’ driving and therefore creates the opportunity for coding that detects consistent driving in that environment.
Specific to the Chevy Cruze emissions case, General Motors is alleged to have built software into their 2014 and 2015 models that was able to detect when the system was being tested. When the vehicle is determined to be out of a testing environment, the vehicle would revert to different performance and release more NOx in order to achieve better performance. The legal complaint against General Motors accuses the Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel system of exceeding federal standards by significant amounts: in highway conditions up to 8x and up to 14x legal limits in stop-and-go traffic. While General Motors denies any problems with the Cruze emissions systems in their vehicle, the charges against them are significant and have been in the courts for years despite multiple failed attempts by the manufacturer to have the case dismissed.
So why would a manufacturer use a cheat device? In short, vehicle performance can be significantly hampered when forced to comply with NOx emissions standards. By being able to release emissions far higher than federal standards, a vehicle’s fuel economy, performance and more can be improved. The incentive to manufacture vehicles that can potentially perform better than competitor vehicles that are hampered by the emissions requirements, has proven to be enticing, but has also resulted in billions of dollars in fines and costs against manufacturers forced to undo the cheating.
The undoing of emissions cheating, though, can come at a cost. A vehicle with software updated to bring them into emissions compliance can, ultimately, face major challenges because, simply put, they were neither built nor designed to operate using that software. As class settlements require installation of the emissions software ‘fix’ in order to receive minimal compensation, owners are forced to decide if the potential issues are worth the compensation offered. Even then, some who refuse the update can still be forced to install the software when a dealer does so without their consent or because future repairs require an updated software system. Given the fact that emissions class settlements, like most class action settlements, automatically include every current and former owner, forcing them to remove themselves from the settlement by opting out, potentially millions of owners can be impacted by these emissions scandals.
What does this mean for current and former owners of 2014-15 diesel Chevy Cruze vehicles? Potentially, a lot. If a class action settlement is reached or a verdict against General Motors emerges as a result of the lawsuit, thousands of vehicles will face a new legal situation to address. To be clear, our firm is not involved in that class action case. Instead, a sin our work on behalf of Mercedes, RAM, and Jeep owners, we will be closely monitoring the case and if we find the class settlement results in the need to opt out, we will step in by providing individual claim opportunities. This process will require those class members to opt out of the class action in order to pursue a claim as an individual, outside of the class settlement, to receive all the compensation they instead deserve.
If you are a current or former own of these vehicles and concerned about how the Cruze emissions class action case could impact your legal options and rights, you can contact our firm for more information. Stern Law has helped thousands explore individual claims outside of the class action settlement they face being subject to. Our team members are available, Monday through Friday, 9 am – 7 pm EST to answer your questions and provide assistance. We hope to hear from you soon.