BMW also dragged into US emission scandal
BMW has joined the ranks of German car manufacturers being investigated for emissions fraud. Following a recent raid of BMW’s German headquarters, US law firm Hagens Berman has filed a suit against the luxury car manufacturer. The firm announced that BMW has been sued in the United States over defeat devices installed in tens of thousands of vehicles in order to cheat diesel emissions tests.
The case was filed in federal court in New Jersey and will become a class-action suit once it is certified by a judge. The suit singles out the BMW X5 and 335D model diesel cars sold between 2009 and 2013. The attorneys at the firm claim nitrogen oxide (a toxic gas) emissions from those cars were as much as 27 times higher than the standard allowed. This fact is masked by “defeat devices” and “manipulative software”.
“At these levels, these cars aren’t just dirty - they don’t meet the standards to be legally driven on US streets. No one would have bought these cars if BMW had told the truth,” said Steve Berman, the firm’s managing partner.
A BMW spokesman in the US said the company was studying the lawsuit but denied the basic charge. “As a matter of principle, BMW Group vehicles are not manipulated and comply with all respective legal requirements,” he said.
BMW is the latest car manufacturer to face legal action over emissions violations. Rival Volkswagen was found to have built defeat devices into more than 11-million cars worldwide in the “dieselgate” scandal. The attorneys are seeking reimbursement for their clients for car purchases. In the US, Volkswagen was ordered to pay huge fines in connection with dieselgate. That scandal, which erupted just over two years ago, prompted investigations into the luxury carmaker Daimler, manufacturer of MercedesBenz, and depressed sales of profitable diesel models across Europe.
BMW, known for its sporty luxury cars, had been relatively unscathed by the matter, but a furore was unleashed when The New York Times reported in January that the company, joined by Volkswagen and Daimler, had funded experiments on monkeys that were intended to show that diesel exhaust is not as harmful as many scientists have said.
German authorities raided BMW’s headquarters in Munich in late March in connection with a preliminary investigation into possible fraud relating to emissions cheat systems built into more than 11 000 cars. A site in Austria was also raided. BMW confirmed the raids. This came after the German manufacturer publicly admitted in February that the software was present in some vehicles and said it would recall them for a software update as soon as one was approved by the KBA German vehicle licensing authority.
BMW stated that “a correctly programmed software subroutine was mistakenly allocated to incompatible models” and that the company had not intentionally tried to deceive regulators. None of the vehicle models at issue are in the US, BMW said.
BMW said it would recall about 11 400 cars containing the software to fix the problem, a minuscule number considering that Volkswagen has admitted to installing emissions-cheating software in 11-million vehicles around the world.
In early April, prosecutors in Braunschweig, Germany, conducted the latest in a series of raids at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. The authorities were seeking evidence on whether Volkswagen had made false claims about the carbon dioxide emissions of its vehicles, said Klaus Ziehe, a spokesman for the Braunschweig state’s attorney. The raids were first reported by Wirtschaftswoche, a German magazine.
Daimler, based in Stuttgart, has disclosed that it is under investigation by German prosecutors and by the United States Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency. These authorities may conclude that Daimler vehicles sold in the United States were equipped with illegal emissions software, Daimler said in its recent 2017 annual report.
“Daimler could be subject to significant monetary penalties,” read the report, and it could suffer “significant collateral damage including reputational harm”.
The BMW vehicles being scrutinised are the 750d, a diesel model in the top-of-the-line 7 Series, and the M550d, a diesel variant of the 5 Series line. BMW said it would begin recalling the vehicles to fix the software as soon as German regulators approved the appropriate repair.
The investigations of German automotive manufacturers are chipping away at the companies’ reputations and draining resources they would likely prefer to spend on developing new products.
If the further accusations are proven, the risk to Germany’s car industry and to the nation’s broader economy would increase significantly. Cars are the country’s largest export product. BMW, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division and Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche units dominate the global market for luxury cars, where brand image is crucial.
Public hostility toward car manufacturers is also growing in Germany, as they find themselves blamed for poor urban air quality caused by diesel exhaust fumes.
Sources: www.newyorktimes.com; Handelsblatt Global