BMW al­so drag­ged in­to US e­mis­si­on scan­dal

George Herald - Auto Dealer - - News - MO­TO­RING STAFF

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.

RECALL

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.

GERMANY

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.

FAR-REACHING

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

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