Ten au­tomak­ers are sued in US over 'deadly' key­less ig­ni­tions

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Ten of the world's big­gest au­tomak­ers were sued by US con­sumers who claim they con­cealed the risks of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing in more than 5 mil­lion ve­hi­cles equipped with key­less ig­ni­tions, lead­ing to 13 deaths.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint filed in fed­eral court in Los An­ge­les, car­bon monox­ide is emit­ted when driv­ers leave their ve­hi­cles run­ning af­ter tak­ing their elec­tronic key fobs with them, un­der the mis­taken belief that the en­gines will shut off.

The 28 named plain­tiffs said this can in­jure or have "deadly" re­sults for peo­ple who in­hale the col­or­less and odor­less gas, in­clud­ing when ve­hi­cles are left in garages at­tached to homes. They also said the de­fect re­duces their ve­hi­cles' re­sale val­ues. A key­less ig­ni­tion lets a driver start a ve­hi­cle by push­ing an on-off but­ton, in­stead of in­sert­ing a key, once the ve­hi­cle senses the pres­ence of a nearby elec­tronic fob.

The de­fen­dants in­clude BMW <BMWG.DE>, in­clud­ing Mini; Daim­ler's <DAIGn.DE> Mercedes Benz; Fiat Chrysler <FCHA.MI>; Ford Mo­tor Co <F.N>; Gen­eral Mo­tors Co <GM.N>; and Honda <7267.T>, in­clud­ing Acura. Also named as de­fen­dants were Hyundai <005380.KS>, in­clud­ing Kia; Nissan <7201.T>, in­clud­ing In­finiti; Toy­ota <7203.T>, in­clud­ing Lexus; and Volk­swa­gen <VOWG_p.DE>, in­clud­ing Bent­ley. The law­suit is the latest seek­ing to hold the automotive in­dus­try li­able for de­fects that could make driv­ing un­safe, such as Takata <7312.T> airbags and ig­ni­tion switches on GM ve­hi­cles.

The law­suit claimed that the 10 au­tomak­ers have long known about the risks of key­less ig­ni­tions, which have been avail­able in the United States since at least 2003, yet de­ceived driv­ers by mar­ket­ing their ve­hi­cles as safe.

The plain­tiffs said the au­tomak­ers could have averted the 13 deaths, and many more in­juries, by in­stalling an in­ex­pen­sive fea­ture to au­tomati- cally turn off unat­tended en­gines, and that GM and Ford even took steps to patent a shut-off fea­ture. They said 27 com­plaints have been lodged with the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2009 over key­less ig­ni­tions. "The au­tomak­ers had ac­tual knowl­edge of the dan­ger­ous car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing con­se­quences of ve­hi­cles with key­less fobs that lack an au­to­matic shut-off," the com­plaint said.

Un­in­ten­tional car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing kills about 430 peo­ple a year in the United States, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. The law­suit seeks class-ac­tion sta­tus and an in­junc­tion re­quir­ing au­tomak­ers to in­stall auto- matic shut-off fea­tures on all ex­ist­ing and fu­ture ve­hi­cles sold with key­less ig­ni­tions. It also seeks com­pen­satory and puni­tive dam­ages.

Ford said it takes cus­tomer safety "very se­ri­ously," and said its key­less ig­ni­tion sys­tem has proven "safe and re­li­able." BMW, Fiat Chrysler and Toy­ota de­clined to com­ment. None of the other au­tomak­ers had an im­me­di­ate com­ment. Lawyers for the plain­tiffs de­clined to com­ment. A U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion spokesman de­clined to com­ment on the NHTSA's be­half. The law­suit was filed in the same fed­eral court in Los An­ge­les where Toy­ota has de­fended against claims that its ve­hi­cles ac­cel­er­ated un­in­ten­tion­ally.

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