Companies based in the United States and abroad have found themselves accused of manufacturing trucks and cars that cheat emission standards. Volkswagen is the most commonly known example, though others have found themselves in legal trouble since. A later investigation involving Fiat Chrysler already reached a massive settlement involving nearly a billion dollars in fines and penalties. Ford’s Super Duty trucks still remain under investigation with a class action lawsuit rolling forward in the courts. But one emissions scandal that has not been on everyone’s radar involves Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz emissions scandal, impacting thousands of the company’s BlueTEC diesel vehicles, involves the cloud of a governmental probe and class action case, not only concerning owners, but leaving a very murky future ahead for how the vehicles, their performance following any attempted “fix” and re-sale values will be impacted by class action settlements and governmental investigations.
Though Mercedes has already paid nearly a billion dollars in fines and issued recalls in response to the same emissions matter in Europe, the ongoing governmental probe and class action in the United States have been largely unreported by the media. We do not believe the lack of news about this topic is a reflection that the accusations are baseless but, more likely an indication that major decisions could be made soon that will be under-reported and, as a result, will potentially impact thousands of unknowing owners in the U.S.
What is this About?
Mercedes-Benz Diesel vehicles impacted by the scandal involve a wide range of BlueTEC diesel-based models. While these vehicles differ in overall performance and style, each is alleged to have a ‘cheat device’ or emissions software installed that conceals the actual contents of their exhaust, jeopardizing the health of the driver and the environment.
The core allegation in the lawsuits surrounding the Mercedes-Benz probe is that software (or a cheat device) was installed on these vehicles that modified when vehicle emissions controls would be functional as required at all times. Functioning like an electronic light switch, these emissions controls would turn on and off depending on the driving circumstances, allegedly to conceal actual emissions when the vehicle was on the open road, as opposed to when the vehicle was in an emissions testing environment. The core issues alleged against Mercedes-Benz are apparently the same in context as those asserted against Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, and that other manufacturers have faced. The vehicles, using different sensors, would detect when they were in a ‘testing’ environment, meaning a facility used by the government to measure dangerous emissions and maintained in legal compliance. With the cheat device, however, outside of the testing environment, emissions are alleged to be far greater than when in the testing environment. Indeed, once the vehicle can detect it’s being driven in normal, everyday driving conditions due to, for instance, steering wheel turns, changes in speed, uphill/downhill environments, etc., the “cheat device” will turn off emissions control systems. That’s a “cheat” or a scam, you might say.
According to the class action complaints under review in the courts, Mercedes-Benz is alleged to have manufactured vehicles that do not meet emissions standards. That failure to meet requirements is not due to minor errors but, instead, major violations. Emissions scandals do not involve nitpicking; each of the emission scandals which have been resolved already involve Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) releases that significantly exceed standards the manufacturer has claimed and informed owners the vehicles will comply with. So when Mercedes-Benz is alleged to have manufactured vehicles that exceed emission levels by as much as 83x the legal limit, this is not a minor mistake or lapse in programming. Such an excess amount of emissions will not be treated as a minor mistake, which apparently is why litigation in Europe against the manufacturer has proceeded aggressively despite some initial delays in the United States.
In late September, Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) was fined almost 1 billion dollars in Europe as part of a settlement with German authorities. A settlement involving a billion dollars represents an amount of money not easily parted with and the damage to a company’s reputation and brand exists whether they plead guilty to criminal charges, or not. When Fiat Chrysler accepted fines in a settlement amounting to nearly a billion dollars for another emissions scandal, they were able to deny responsibility in the agreements because of the “compromised” settlement of all charges. Yet, months after that settlement with the government was reached, criminal charges were in place for a former manager of FCA who is alleged to have intentionally improved vehicle performance by implementing a cheat device on FCA’s 2014-16 EcoDiesel vehicles. That criminal case is still ongoing, meaning even more charges against other company representatives may likely emerge and, ultimately, this shows that the allegations were unlikely due to a mathematical error or unforeseen consequence but, instead, illegal modifications to the vehicle that deceived owners. FCA faced significant penalties because of a cheat device on these vehicles intended to manipulate emissions testing, which doesn’t easily happen without significant awareness and pre-planning.
What’s the Harm?
So why would a vehicle be built this way? With billions of dollars in fines being issued, why would a company release vehicles that avoid legal requirements? The answer is likely quite simple: performance and sales. Emissions controls impact how the engine operates; the reduction of NOx ultimately caps MPGs and performance that could otherwise be exceeded by diesel motors. Arguments can be made about whether these restrictions are fair or appropriate. Many feel, one way or another, that emissions are an issue for political debate. The reality of these matters is that regardless of how you feel about emissions restrictions, global warming, air pollution, etc., these attitudes and perspectives matter far less when owners are facing an emissions scandal that will result in changes to their vehicle to “disarm” the cheat device and, as a result, negatively affect performance and re-sale value. Indeed, re-programming or disarming cheat devices through a “software fix” has been associated with negative impacts on vehicle performance, including reduced MPG’s, decreased power and reduced re-sale value.
You see, whatever you may think about the importance of pollution controls in our cars to protect each of us and the environment, the fact remains that our government sets standards to limit dangerous pollutants and we, as consumers, rely upon the manufacturer to comply with these regulations. When manufacturers cheat, it misleads you as the consumer relying upon the manufacturer and it harms the environment. That may sound bad enough, but when the manufacturer is caught, government many times requires that the cheat device be disarmed. History has shown the result of disarming the cheat device may mean harm to you and your vehicle from these negative effects on vehicle performance, including reduced MPG’s, decreased power and reduced re-sale value. That’s why we get involved. You deserve to be fully compensated for the damages caused to you and your vehicle because of any cheat device used to manipulate emissions and mislead owners and the government.
Class Settlements and Owner Inclusion
Because emissions class action cases automatically include all owners, it’s not whether you think manufacturers should or should not follow environmental standards. Instead, the core issue is what you are going to do about it now that the issue has impacted your vehicle as you will be automatically included in and subject to the terms of the approved class action settlement.
Here’s what every current and former owner of these diesel Mercedes-Benz vehicles must be aware of: when a class action and/or governmental settlement is reached, it impacts every subject vehicle, whether the owners are aware or not. With Volkswagen, a “patch” or “fix” was required in order to bring the vehicle into emissions compliance – owners had to decide whether accepting a buyback based upon the used Kelley Blue Book value before the scandal was announced OR to update the software to correct the emissions issues, while accepting the impacts on performance that followed. There was no ‘if you want it’ element to the emissions scandal – current and former owners were forced into a decision due to these settlements. Those affected individuals had to receive the patch or sell their vehicle back as members of the class… unless they opted out and removed themselves from the settlement before the deadline to sue the manufacturer for all the compensation they rightfully deserved.
Our law firm is not the class action law firm suing Mercedes-Benz on this issue. Nor are we, as you may have suspected, acting on behalf of the government. Instead, we are a law firm that represents owners just like you who opt out of various class action settlements they disagree with to receive all the compensation they deserve, as opposed to the more limited benefits typically and historically available through class action settlements negotiated by lawyers you’ll never meet or communicate with.
Vehicles Involved in Mercedes-Benz Emissions Scandal
As the class action involving Daimler diesels continues, including approximately ~100,000 Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC diesel vehicles, the stakes are clearly high for owners. Owners of these vehicles will need to be vigilant to monitor the settlement process to ensure their rights are not determined for them due to a missed opt out deadline:
- Mercedes ML 320
- Mercedes ML 350
- Mercedes GL 320
- Mercedes E250
- Mercedes E320
- Mercedes S350
- Mercedes R320
- Mercedes E Class
- Mercedes GL Class
- Mercedes ML Class
- Mercedes R Class
- Mercedes S Class
- Mercedes GLK Class
- Mercedes GLE Class
- Mercedes Sprinter
Because of the importance of these deadlines, we are carefully monitoring the ongoing investigations and preparing claims on behalf of owners who choose to opt out. Those that take the steps necessary to opt out can file an individual claim for the impact an emission scandal has on their vehicle’s performance and re-sale value.
We believe opting out can be critical when a class action settlement does not provide the compensation an owner may deserve for the issues they’ve faced, through no fault of their own. For current and former owners of FCA’s 2014-16 EcoDiesel vehicles, the emissions software update was voluntary. However, in order to receive minimal compensation in the class action settlement, current owners had to patch their vehicle to update its emissions software, while former owners had to agree to not seek damages. Too many believed this was ‘easy money’ because the settlement documents stated that issues with decreased MPGs, performance and more were “not expected.” Even though the history of emissions updates is filled with examples of software patches causing everyday problems, too many owners mistakenly believed and trusted a manufacturer that had already “fooled them once,” it would be an easy process and, essentially, ‘easy money.’
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the everyday reality EcoDiesel owners experienced after receiving the software patch to disarm a cheat device, given the wide range of posts about driving experiences that have been shared online. A simple Google search will show thousands of posts regarding how the emissions update has created problems or otherwise impacted the performance of EcoDiesel vehicles. Decreased MPGs, reduced towing/torque performance, drops in re-sale value, time-consuming repairs and more have all been reported. A review of our website shows we warned EcoDiesel owners this could happen. While we cannot guarantee such problems will occur with Mercedes-Benz vehicles, it’s critical owners of these vehicles are aware of the potential problems a mandatory patch can create, and in fact have already created for owners, and judge their own situation accordingly.
If you own a BlueTEC diesel-fueled Mercedes-Benz, we ask you to reach out to our firm as soon as possible to better understand your rights.
Why should you use Stern Law for a future emissions claim?
- Our firm represents more current and former owners of EcoDiesel vehicles that were caught up in their own emissions scandal than any other law firm in the country.
- We are at the forefront of the ongoing Ford Super Duty emissions scandal, a case with its own governmental investigation and class action problems to deal with.
- In terms of helping owners avoid class settlements, we represent more than 13,000 owners of Ford DPS6 vehicles who were forced to opt out of that deal due to the lack of fair compensation involved.
- We are actively helping California Nissan owners avoid a similarly poor settlement deal impacting their vehicles, helping clients navigate the opt out and filing process.
In each of those cases, we believe owners deserved a full buyback and more because they were, ultimately, not sold the vehicle as represented by the manufacturer. It’s why we will also pursue a full buyback and more for owners of Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC vehicles impacted by another emissions scandal.
Contact Stern Law by calling (844) 808-7529 or complete our online contact form to get started. Any case involving a governmental investigation and class action situation is vulnerable to a settlement that automatically includes every owner. Once a settlement is reached, an opt out period soon follows where owners will be required to submit specific information to avoid being otherwise included in and subject to the terms of the class settlement. Starting that process now, sooner rather than later, will allow our firm to support you and protect your legal rights as events unfold with this Mercedes-Benz emissions scandal. We charge nothing out-of-pocket, meaning you will know that we are focused on getting the results our clients deserve. As a result, owners receive our assistance from start to finish in this complicated process, while ultimately pursuing all the compensation they fully deserve.
Do you own a BlueTEC diesel-fueled Mercedes-Benz vehicle? Contact us soon, before time runs out, in order to seek maximum damages for manufacturer misrepresentations which have impacted you and your vehicle ownership. Our case is not about money for nothing or attacking emission standards – we represent clients who simply want what they deserve due to the actions of this manufacturer.
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 Mercedes directly. Questions concerning the terms of the Mercedes BlueTEC class action settlement should be directed to the class settlement’s administrators, whose website (including documents) can be accessed by clicking here or by calling 877-313-0170. This article should not be considered a solicitation for legal services by Stern Law, PLLC, to anyone currently represented by legal counsel.