On January 10th, 2018, a lawsuit was filed against the Ford Motor Company, alleging widespread use of emissions “cheat devices” in its F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks. Similar to the accusations made against FCA and Volkswagen, the lawsuit alleges Ford’s trucks produce NOx emissions in excess of 30-50 times the required legal standards. The suit even goes so far to state a more fitting name for the Super Duty trucks was “Super Dirty,” due to the allegations regarding emissions violations. The case has since been amended to include the F-450 trucks as well.
The lawsuit represents an important milestone on this issue because it provides the first round of facts which may, ultimately, impact every owner of these trucks. While owners may not see a difference in their fuel economy or performance now, the damage is already done, the lawsuit suggests for those owners originally seeking to keep emissions low and MPG’s high by paying a premium for the emission package advertised by Ford.
WHICH FORD TRUCKS ARE AFFECTED?
Currently, problems have been detected in the emissions affecting the 2011-2017 F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty diesel trucks. These problems are not visible to the naked eye, though, so owners of the 2011-17 Super Duty trucks will not be able to see a broken part or visible deterioration. Instead, the problem is discovered through computer software regulating emissions and/or by measuring the content of exhaust pollutants.
HOW BAD IS THE CLAIMED PROBLEM IN THESE FORD F-250, F-350 AND F-450 SUPER DUTY TRUCKS?
While some may roll their eyes at the idea a lawsuit should be necessary for an emissions issue, it appears the claims against Ford go far beyond an issue of a few percentage points of excessive emissions or a minor failed attempt to comply with promulgated federal and/or state rules and regulations. Instead, the allegations made in the filed lawsuit are staggering:
- During normal commute/driving conditions, tested vehicles had emissions that exceed regulations by 30 to 50 times permitted levels
- In conditions involving towing, high NOx emissions exceeding legal standards by 30 to 50 times permitted levels were detected
- For stop-and-go driving, emission standards were exceeded 69% of the time. Nearly half of the time (45%), emissions were double the legal standard; 9% of the time, emissions were five times permitted levels
Emissions standards are established by the government to ensure new vehicles are efficient and do not cause excessive damage to the environment. While some may not be concerned about an environmental impact, the truth remains that these are standards every other manufacturer in the country is required to abide by, and this also applies to imports. When a company uses an unfair advantage to skirt these requirements, it damages the environment, while also creating an unfair advantage for the responsible manufacturer.
WHAT ARE NOX EMISSIONS?
In short, NOx is short for Nitrogen Oxide. A harmful byproduct of these trucks burning diesel, there are very specific standards set forth by the government as to how much can/should be released while operating the vehicle. Regardless of whether the truck is towing, idling or driving, these regulatory requirements must be strictly followed. What we have seen, however, in the past 2-3 years are certain claims of manufacturers using ‘cheat devices’ or ‘cheat software’ that will report far lower emissions than is actually being released. Ford is not the only manufacturer to face these allegations, but that does not change the reality surrounding these troubling statistics.
Owners of 2011-2017 F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty diesel trucks purchase these vehicles for a wide range of purposes. Whether to be used for work, personal driving, the extended usability of diesel-equipped vehicles, fuel efficiency, etc., the purchase of these trucks is often the result of a thoughtful and serious commitment by the owner. In fact, given their hefty price tag, these trucks may be the first or second most expensive (and important) purchase in an owner’s life. That is why allegations that owners of 2011-2017 F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty diesel trucks may not have received what they paid for even more troubling.
If/when these numbers are replicated and validated, Ford will have a difficult time explaining how these emission levels were sadly missed by their internal teams, and they will be called upon to explain how much they knew and when they knew it over the seven years these trucks have been sold. Should the allegations be proven true that Super Duty emissions exceeded governmental regulations, and owner expectations based on Ford’s representations, Ford will be forced to undergo research and engineering efforts to come up with a solution to address these emission issues; manufacturers are not permitted to simply ‘shrug their shoulders’ and claim ignorance when their products fail to comply with governmental regulations, resulting in excessive emissions.
WHAT’S THE HARM? ISN’T THIS JUST AN EPA PROBLEM?
Far too many owners of these vehicles with claimed cheat devices do not believe there is any harm caused to their trucks. Whether the environmental components of ‘clean diesel’ vehicles matter to you, the fact remains there are specific economic damages associated with a truck that does not operate as represented. So, what’s the claim of Ford truck owners in this Super Duty emissions matter?
- Ford owners pay a higher price for diesel-equipped trucks, spending as much as $8,400 more than what it would cost to purchase a gasoline-powered truck
- Depreciation of vehicle value, especially on resale, due to market concerns about what repairs will be required to bring these vehicles into regulatory compliance
- Fraud damages as a result of Ford’s marketing claims surrounding the performance, MPG’s environmental benefit and overall quality of these vehicles
- Trucks will be forced to comply with regulatory requirements. Such reprogramming can result in weakened performance levels, resulting in reduced MPGs, and reduced resale value among other concerns
- If these claims are correct, those who purchased their vehicle due to its improved environmental impact have, instead, been driving a vehicle with a significantly worse environmental impact than a gasoline-based vehicle. Worse yet, once corrected, vehicle performance, including power, MPG’s and resale value, may be impacted
To be clear, we are not singling out Ford’ when it comes to this issue. Unfortunately, there have been several auto manufacturers that have been accused of using cheat devices and software to skirt EPA requirements. In some instances, particularly during the last few years, the government has been able to prove these accusations, entitling owners to significant compensation when owners purchase a vehicle that does not perform, or comply with regulatory requirements, as represented.
A BRIEF TIMELINE OF DIESEL EMISSION SCANDAL
As noted, Ford is just one of several manufacturers that have been accused of using cheat software or devices to represent emission numbers that do not align with any reality.
A brief summary includes,
- In May of 2014, researchers from West Virginia University publish papers demonstrating their research into emissions in Volkswagen vehicles. The study makes major news as it alleges that the vehicles are emitting pollutants far in excess of the specs required by the EPA, representing a significant finding of manufacturer deception in the realm of emissions regulation (WVU Findings show higher emission levels than reported by VW)
- In September of 2015, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency announces they are investigating Volkswagen for, among other things, the findings highlighted in the WVU research documents. Specifically, the investigation will determine whether the manufacturer used specific programming to avoid detection of excessive emissions. (EPA investigation into Volkswagen is announced). A number of lawsuits are filed based upon the WVU report and the EPA investigation.
- In October of 2015, a researcher alleged BMW, Ford, Mazda and Mercedes vehicles may also be producing significantly higher levels of NOx emissions than is legally permitted (Daily Mail reporting on Nitrogen Oxide emission research).
- On October 25th, 2016, a judge approved a settlement that had been reached between attorneys representing owners of affected Volkswagen vehicles which failed to comply with regulatory emissions requirements (Judge approves Volkswagen class action settlement).
- On or around January 12, 2017, the EPA publicly announces an investigation involving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which mirrors in most aspects the allegations made against Volkswagen for producing vehicles with emissions exceeding permissible levels. As in the other cases, accusations concern emission reports reflecting drastically lower levels of dangerous emissions in manufacturer controlled testing environments than what is discovered through independent testing (Learn more about the EPA announcement regarding certain EcoDiesel trucks).
- In May of 2017, a class action lawsuit was filed against General Motors for alleged emission cheating in the popular Chevy Silverado line of diesel trucks (General Motors subject to lawsuit regarding Chevy Silverado emissions).
- On or around June 13, 2017, West Virginia researchers release their findings about the emissions detected in FCA’s EcoDiesel vehicles. The findings are troubling and reflect a far higher level of NOx emissions than advertised or described in data submitted to the EPA and other governmental entities (Release of West Virginia Researcher Findings)
- In October of 2017, FCA finally received approval from the EPA to release its 2017 model year EcoDiesel trucks, well after they were expected and around the time their 2018 models were being released.
- In a Reuters article on December 19, 2017, it’s reported that class action settlement discussions seem to be nearing a resolution while a ‘patch fix’ to resolve the issues of EcoDiesel vehicles in question may not be available until May of 2018 (Reuters report on settlement discussions).
- In January of 2018, a class action lawsuit is filed against Ford Motor Company for excessive emissions which again do not align with the manufacturer’s representations. The impacted vehicles include 2011-2017 F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks. An amended complaint later added F-450 models.
As noted, Ford is not the only manufacturer who has faced these allegations. Just as we have filed individual claims for Dodge and Jeep EcoDiesel owners, we are now moving forward with the claims of affected Ford owners. While we are grateful for the work performed in the Class Action lawsuit, in our experience the value to owners that pursue their own individual claim has exceeded the compensation available to victims in a class action case. As a result, we are taking on the cases of owners of 2011-17 Ford F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty diesel trucks to pursue the maximum compensation available through individual claims.
SO WHAT SHOULD SUPER DUTY OWNERS DO NOW?
As is the case with most class actions, the final settlement terms, once agreed to and approved by a court, often may not cover the full spectrum of damages available to every class member/participant by pursuing their own individual claim. Because a class action is inherently a compromise with a “one size fits all” type resolution for each participant or class member, there can be several items of damage that go unrecognized and that can potentially represent significant, lost compensation. While the Volkswagen class action settlement was comprehensive and cost the company a massive amount of money, many VW owners were able to pursue (and receive) compensation that far exceeded the terms of the class action settlement by pursuing their own individual claims. We have seen the same trend repeat itself in other excessive emissions cases. The final terms of the settlement of the Ford Super Duty cases have of course not been agreed to as yet, and while we await that outcome these are important trends and in important part of history and our experience to keep in mind moving forward.
While lawyers never guarantee results, we would like to speak with you if you’re an owner of a 2011-17 Ford F-250, F-350 or F-450 Super Duty truck. about our firm’s history and what we can do to help. Just as far too many owners of Ford’s Focus and Fiesta vehicles recently discovered, a class action settlement is usually binding upon the owners unless they timely opt out. Once the opt-out period has closed, the settlement terms may be far less than desired for the Super Duty emissions issue.
All too many frustrated and angry owners of Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler vehicles still contact our firm, seeking to avoid the terms of class action settlement terms in those cases they failed to timely opt out of. Once a class action is settled, approved and an opt-out period has passed, there is nothing we can do for you as an owner of one of these trucks that’s seeking to pursue additional damages through your own individual claim. That is why it’s critical that you contact our firm now, so that you can remain informed about the Super Duty class action and what it may offer, or not provide, and preserve your own individual claim.
Have questions? Contact us today by completing our contact form or calling our firm at (844) 808-7529 today!
Important Notice: The preceding information represents the opinions of Stern Law, PLLC, that should be thoughtfully considered by you and lawyers with whom you should consult. Despite our opinions and views expressed above, and because every case is different, nothing here can or should be understood to represent a guarantee of success or that every owner will always do better by opting out and suing Ford directly. Questions concerning the terms of the Ford Super Duty class action settlement should be directed to class counsel, whose website can be accessed by clicking here or by calling 1-888-381-2889. This article should not be considered a solicitation for legal services by Stern Law, PLLC, to anyone currently represented by legal counsel.