SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A California Dodge RAM 1500 EcoDiesel owner today filed a class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler (NYSE: FCAU) and Bosch LLC stating the two entities knowingly concealed the use of an emissions-cheating defeat device and illegally high emissions levels up to 10 times the legal limit in EcoDiesel vehicles, and sold them under false pretenses, according to leading plaintiffs’ class-action law firm Hagens Berman.
The firm estimates that consumers paid premiums of up to $4,700 for vehicles that fail to meet federal emissions standards and are on the road illegally. The defeat device affects 140,000 Dodge RAM 1500s and 9,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee models, selling at 3,000 per month, according to the firm.
The lawsuit accuses FCA and Bosch of supporting and participating in a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) enterprise, and charges FCA with committing fraudulent concealment, false advertising and acting in violation of consumer-rights laws by selling vehicles equipped with an emissions system that during normal driving conditions emits many multiples of the allowed level of pollutants such as NOx (mono-nitrogen oxides). In order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, the lawsuit states that FCA erroneously “claims that ‘no NOx’ exits the tailpipe.”
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 1, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeks reimbursement for a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased or leased the affected vehicles, as well as injunctive relief and equitable relief for FCA and Bosch’s misconduct related to the design, manufacture, marketing, sale and lease of affected vehicles.
“Bosch and Fiat Chrysler took full advantage of consumers’ wishes to make a conscious, ecofriendly purchasing decision by vigorously marketing its EcoDiesel line as ‘clean diesel,’ as a means to charge premium prices – more than $4,700 more,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Dodge owners across the country fell victim to these corporations’ dirty tactics and are now faced with the reality that the premium price they paid for ‘reduced emissions’ was a joke.”
“These cars were designed with one purpose in mind – to evade U.S. emissions regulations in order to gain dirty profits. FCA’s ‘advanced emissions-control technology’ is a sham,” Berman added. “Bosch and Fiat Chrysler’s emissions-cheating scam has cost consumers dearly.”
The lawsuit states, “To appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, FCA vigorously markets its EcoDiesel vehicles as “clean diesel” with ultra-low emissions, high fuel economy and powerful torque and towing capacity. And, FCA charges a premium for EcoDiesel-equipped vehicles. For example, selecting the 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engine on the 2016 Dodge RAM 1500 Laramie adds $4,770 to the purchase price. And the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland EcoDiesel costs $4,500 more than its gasoline counterpart.”
In its EcoDiesel advertising, FCA specifically targets consumers “who want to drive an efficient, environmentally-friendly truck without sacrificing capability or performance.” It also claims the RAM 1500 was “the NAFTA market’s first and only light-duty pickup powered by clean diesel technology.”
According to the complaint, affected vehicles will necessarily be worth less in the marketplace because of their decrease in performance and increased wear on their cars’ engines.
The suit states that engineering giant, Bosch is “at the heart of the diesel scandal in the United States,” and was an “active and knowing participant in the scheme to evade U.S. Emissions requirements.” The complaint states that Bosch manufactured and tested the electronic, diesel control (EDC) that allowed FCA to implement the emissions-cheating defeat device.
“Bosch participated not just in the development of the defeat device, but in the scheme to prevent U.S. regulators from uncovering the device’s true functionality,” the lawsuit states.
Diesel Testing Reveals Defeat Device, High Emissions
After the by-products of diesel fuel combustion leave the engine, the vehicle's EcoDiesel technology treats emissions using a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and selective catalyst reduction. But when this technology is operational, it compromises fuel economy, according to the firm’s investigation.
The firm’s findings revealed that Fiat Chrysler intentionally turns off emissions treatment, in violation of EPA requirements, because without cheating emissions, RAM 1500 EcoDiesels could not achieve the fuel economy, range, towing power or performance that Fiat Chrysler promises customers.
The applicable standard both at the federal level and in California, where the lawsuit is filed, is 50 mg/mile of NOx for “FTP Style” driving, (i.e., city driving).
“The RAM 1500 emits an average of 159 mg/mile of NOx and a maximum of 1,283 on flat roads, and on hills 222 mg/mile of NOx with a maximum of 1,859 mg/mile,” the complaint states. “On highway driving the average was 232 mg/mile and a maximum of 1,615 mg/mile of NOx, compared to the 70 mg/mile standard. On hills the numbers are 353 and 3,240 mg/mile.”
The firm’s testing also revealed a defeat device triggered by ambient temperature that significantly diminishes the performance of the NOx emission reduction system, with ambient threshold temperatures above approximately 95 F and below 40-50 F. NOx emissions increase by a factor of 10 when above or below these threshold temperatures, the suit states. Testing also revealed the presence of a defeat device when ascending hills, as the emission control system appears to be significantly diminished after a short period of steady driving on hills.
In its own words, FCA claims that “the Bosch emissions control system helps ensure that virtually no particulates and minimal oxides of nitrogen (NOx) exit the tailpipe.”
The suit’s named plaintiff representing the proposed class of consumers purchased a new model year 2016 Dodge RAM 1500 EcoDiesel from Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge, an authorized FCA dealer in Richmond, California based on the mistaken belief that the vehicle was a “clean diesel,” complied with U.S. emissions standards and was properly EPA-certified. The suit states that in unknowingly purchasing a vehicle without proper emission controls, the plaintiff has suffered out-of-pocket losses, cost of future attempted repairs and diminished value of his vehicle.
Hagens Berman is one of the most successful class-action law firms in the U.S. and has taken on General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and other automakers for consumers. The law firm is also leading national charges against VW, Mercedes and GM for use of diesel emissions-cheating software.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.