Fiat named in class action over use of defeat devices to falsify fuel efficiency, performance, and emissions statistics

The complaint alleges that Fiat intentionally installed of so-called defeat devices on an estimated 104,000 diesel Dodge and Jeep vehicles sold in the United States since 2014 (“Defeat Device Vehicles”). Defendants marketed those vehicles as environmentally friendly vehicles that possessed better fuel efficiency, better performance, and lower emissions. Although Defendants successfully marketed these expensive cars as “clean,” their environmentally-friendly representations were a sham. Defendants did not actually make cars with those desirable and advertised attributes.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Defendants installed their “defeat device” in at least their 3.0-liter EcoDiesel-powered 2014-2016 Dodge RAM 1500 pickup trucks and 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles.

Instead of delivering on their promise of superior fuel economy coupled with low emissions, Defendants devised a way to make it appear that their cars did what they said they would when, in fact, they did not.

The defeat devices Defendants designed and installed work by switching on the full emissions control systems in Defendants’ cars only when the car is undergoing periodic emissions testing. The technology needed to control emissions from Defendants’ cars to meet state and federal emissions regulations, reduces their performance, limiting acceleration, torque, and fuel efficiency.

To hide this, the defeat device simply shuts off most of the emissions control systems in the car once the car has completed its emissions test. While that might have made the car more fun to drive, it resulted in Defendants’ cars sending excess NOx emissions into the environment than is allowed under the Clean Air Act and state regulations.

Audi named in class action lawsuit for use of emissions defeat devices in gasoline vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions

 

Plaintiff brings this action in connection with Audi’s practice of equipping certain gasoline vehicles with an illegal “defeat device” designed to evade governmental emissions regulations by tricking the public and regulators into thinking the vehicles emit far less noxious carbon dioxide gas (“CO2”) than they actually do.

In September 2015, and again in November 2015, Volkswagen and Audi admitted using defeat device software to activate emissions controls when diesel cars were being smog tested and deactivate those controls during normal, on-road driving. Volkswagen, Audi AG’s parent company, took the position that the diesel defeat device was an isolated incident, which it dubiously blamed on “rogue engineers.”

As alleged, it was not an isolated incident, and the unlawful activity was not perpetrated by a few “rogue engineers” but by hundreds of personnel throughout the companies.

Moreover, Audi’s unlawful activity was not limited to its diesel vehicles. It has recently been reported that Audi has been hiding its use of a completely different defeat device on additional gasoline vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions.

The vehicles containing the illegal defeat device include at least those vehicles Audi equipped with (1) a ZF 8HP55 “AL551” transmission, including but not limited to, the A6, A8, Q5, and Q 7 or (2) a DL 501-7Q “DL 501” transmission, including, but not limited to, the Audi S4, S5, S6, and S7 models (collectively the “Affected Vehicles”). In those vehicles, Audi installed software which detects when the vehicle undergoes emissions and mileage testing and then programs the car to shift into each higher gear sooner, thus reducing engine RPM, fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions. But otherwise, during normal driving operation, the cars’ shift points are higher, resulting in more power and acceleration, but increased fuel consumption, lower MPG, and higher CO2 emissions.

Audi sold the Affected Vehicles to Plaintiff and Class members without informing them of the existence of the defeat devices, and by falsely representing to them that the Affected Vehicles were compliant with all relevant emissions standards when in normal use. Audi also falsely represented the fuel efficiency of the Affected Vehicles.

Because the existence of the defeat devices was concealed, Plaintiff and the Class members were unaware that the vehicles they purchased were equipped with illegal defeat devices. Plaintiff and Class members suffered damages as a result of Audi’s misrepresentations and omissions regarding the defeat device. Plaintiff would not have purchased the Affected Vehicle at all and/or—if the Affected Vehicle’s true nature had been disclosed and mitigated, and the Affected Vehicle rendered legal to sell—would have paid significantly less for it. At the very least, Plaintiff and Class members overpaid for their vehicles, which are incapable of providing the balance of performance, fuel efficiency, and cleanliness that Audi advertised. Plaintiff and Class members have also suffered diminution of vehicle value now that the existence of the defeat device has been revealed.

Complaint