The plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that Mercedes Benz has defective diesel engines that have an illegal “defeat device” that allows for more dirty emission during driving than during emissions testing. These BlueTEC diesel engines are facing the same issues as Volkswagen, Audi, and many other diesel engine producers have had in the recent past and displays another reason why diesel engines may not be a legitimate substitute for gasoline.
One plaintiff in this lawsuit, Anthony Caputo, is from Mt. Arlington, New Jersey. In November, 2011, Caputo purchased a new 2012 Mercedes ML 350 BlueTEC and still owns it to this day. Caputo bought this vehicle for many reasons including luxury, utility, and the clean efficiency that was marketed and advertised by Mercedes. At the time that he bought the vehicle, Caputo did not know that it was equipped with an emissions system that turned off or limited Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions during normal driving conditions and emitted many multiples of the allowed level of pollutants. Mercedes knew about, or recklessly disregarded, the inadequate emission controls during normal driving conditions, but did not disclose such facts or their effects to Caputo. Caputo, an informed and conscientious consumer, then purchased the vehicle on the reasonable, but mistaken, belief that his vehicle was an EPA certified “clean diesel” and would maintain that distinction for years to come. Mercedes’s unfair, unlawful, and deceptive conduct in designing, manufacturing, marketing, selling, and leasing the ML 350 without proper emission controls has caused Caputo and other owners out-of-pocket loss, future repair expenses, and diminished value of his vehicle.
Diesel engines are attractive to consumers because that have high low-end torque, exceptional fuel efficiency, better drivability, and more low-end power when compared to their gasoline counterparts. These benefits come at the cost of much dirtier and more harmful emissions that contribute to ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect more than gasoline emissions. One by-product of diesel combustion is NOx, which describes several compounds of nitrogen and oxygen atoms. These are produced in the cylinders of diesel engines during the combustion process. Exposure to this pollutant is linked with serious health dangers, including serious respiratory illnesses and premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. The United States’ EPA has enacted many regulations under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from these dangerous pollutants.
In order to achieve a trade-off between the benefits and costs of diesels, Mercedes developed and marketed its BlueTEC lineup. BlueTEC engines have a number of in-cylinder and after-treatment technologies to reduce emissions. These include a diesel particulate filter and a selective catalytic reduction system. Mercedes has marketed their system as “the world’s cleanest and most advanced diesel” that emits “up to 30% lower greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline.” Mercedes recently admitted that a shut-off device in the engine management of BlueTEC diesel cars stops NOx cleaning when ambient temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and under other circumstances. Low temperature testing at highway speeds produced emissions that were 8.1 to 19.7 times the highway emissions standard. Testing at low temperatures at variable speeds produced emissions up to 30.8 times the standard. Further testing has revealed that Mercedes BlueTEC vehicles do not meet emission standards in virtually all real world driving conditions. Mercedes vehicles that may have a BlueTEC engine include the ML320, ML 350, GL 320, E320, S350, R320, E Class, GL Class, ML Class, R Class, S Class, GLK Class, GLE Class, and Sprinter.
Based on the facts, plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that Mercedes Bens violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, committed Breach of Contract, committed Fraudulent Concealment, and violate many other state and federal laws by marketing, selling, and lying about its BlueTEC diesel engines that had an illegal “defeat device” that allowed it to emit more pollutions than permitted by the EPA.