GM calls emissions cheating lawsuit ‘baseless’

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Updated May 26, 2017
2017 Chevy Silverado2017 Chevy Silverado

GM called a diesel emissions lawsuit against the company ‘baseless’ and that it will ‘vigorously defend’ itself against claims that it rigged emissions control systems on its Duramax diesel engines.

This morning, law firm Hagens Berman announced that it had filed a lawsuit today on behalf of GM truck owners against the automaker for allegedly “rigging emissions controls in an estimated 705,000 Duramax diesel vehicles—more cars than were involved in VW’s Dieselgate scandal.”

Hagens Berman alleges that certain GM trucks emit two to five times the legal limit for harmful nitrogen oxide. Robert Bosch LLC has been named as a co-defendant. The German manufacturer produced GM’s electronic diesel controls.

Hard Working Trucks reached out to GM for comment and received the following email from GM Communications about an hour following the lawsuit announcement:

“These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves. The Duramax Diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations.”

Duramax dieselDuramax diesel

Hagens Berman alleges that GM employs three emissions defeat devices in certain vehicles equipped with Duramax diesel engines. Two of the devices are temperature dependent while a third is activated every 200 to 500 seconds while the truck is running, according to the lawsuit.

Hagens Berman contends that all three defeat devices are not detectable under normal lab testing conditions. (The press release below elaborates on those alleged devices.) The Seattle-based lawfirm reports that it is the only lawfirm that has its own on-road emission testing machine. It’s currently representing two GM truck owners in the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press. 

In March, GM announced that it had built its 2 millionth 6.6-liter Duramax following its debut in July 2000. GM stock dropped roughly 2.5 percent Thursday afternoon to $32.35 per share.

Hard Working Trucks contacted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for comment.

Below is the press release from Hagens Berman:

Consumers are suing General Motors for allegedly rigging the emissions controls in Duramax diesel trucks in order to pass emissions tests, while in real world conditions the trucks emit 2 to 5 times the legal limits of deadly NOx pollutants, according to Hagens Berman.

The lawsuit states that GM did so all to increase the vehicles’ power and efficiency, and thus the appeal of its best-selling pick-up trucks. The complaint identifies and describes three distinct “defeat devices,” which turn down or “de-rate” the emissions controls in place compared to when the vehicles are in a testing environment.

Vehicle owners are represented by leading auto defect consumer-rights law firm, Hagens Berman, which has been involved in many of the largest automotive settlements in U.S. history, including the $10 billion Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement, the $1.3 billion Volkswagen dealer settlement and the $1.6 billion consumer settlement against Toyota. Based on its testing of emissions control systems, the firm is also leading litigation against Chevrolet, Fiat-Chrysler and Mercedes for illegal use of emissions-cheating software. The level of excess NOx emissions from GM trucks is 2 to 5 times the legal limits, and there are estimated to be at least 705,000 of these big trucks on the road.

If you own or lease a 2011-2016 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax diesel or a GMC Sierra Duramax diesel, you may be entitled to participate in the litigation involving this alleged fraud. Making these trucks EPA and CARB compliant, if possible, could increase the frequency of active regeneration cycles, and may reduce power, torque and fuel efficiency. Contact Hagens Berman to find out more about this issue and your consumer rights against GM.

The complaint, filed on May 25, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) states that roughly 705,000 Silverado and Sierra diesels are on the road. It alleges: “Increased sales and thus increased profits drove GM to use at least these three defeat devices in its Duramax diesel engines. By reversing the traditional order of the exhaust treatment components and putting the Selective Catalytic Reduction (“SCR”) in front of the Diesel Particulate Filter (“DPF”), GM could obtain and market higher power and efficiency from its engines while still passing the cold-start emissions certification tests. This made GM’s trucks more appealing and competitive in the marketplace, driving up sales and profits.”

But as Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman explained, “Putting the SCR in front of the DPF drastically increases the need for Active Regeneration of the DPF and other power and efficiency sapping exhaust treatment measures, which would reverse the competitive edge gained. Rather than take the time to design a system that could actually pass emissions and provide the characteristics GM sought, GM’s solution was to install defeat devices to provide maximum pollution control in testing environments, while reducing SCR dosing, increasing NOx emissions, and thus decreasing fuel and power-sapping Active Regeneration during regular driving. GM turned a blind eye to the drastic increase in deadly NOx emissions its scheme caused–all to drive up its sales and profits.”

“This is a shocking discovery, and a really big deal because the NOx limits for these big trucks are four times what the limits were for the much smaller Volkswagen passenger cars and there are more of these trucks on the road,” explained Berman. “As a result, these GM trucks likely dumped as much excess poisonous NOx emissions into our air as did the cheating Volkswagen passenger cars.”

“GM claimed its engineers had accomplished a ‘remarkable reduction of diesel emissions,’” the lawsuit states, citing GM’s promises that the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado Duramax engines turned “heavy diesel fuel into a fine mist,” and delivered “low emissions, that were a ‘whopping reduction’ from the prior model.” But the suit states that during on-road testing these diesel trucks pollute at levels well beyond legal limits, many times higher than their gasoline counterparts, and far in excess of what reasonable consumers would expect.

The alleged defeat devices combine to de-rate and degrade emissions controls: (1) above 86 degrees Fahrenheit—the upper limit for emissions certification testing; (2) below 68 degrees Fahrenheit—the lower limit for emissions certification testing; and (3) after 200 to 500 seconds of study driving—a scenario that never happens during certification emissions tests. When this third defeat device is active, emissions increase on average by a factor of 4.5. As a result, the trucks appear to comply with emissions regulations when they are being tested, but otherwise gain power and efficiency by dumping vast quantities of deadly NOx into the air we all breathe. As alleged in the complaint, the temperature-based defeat devices combine to de-rate emissions controls during 65 to 70 percent of the miles the vehicles are driven in and around the 30 largest population centers in the United States.

The suit also names Bosch as a defendant, adding that “GM did not act alone.” Bosch developed, manufactured, and tested the Electronic Diesel Control unit that allowed GM to implement the defeat devices, according to the suit. And Bosch control units are found in almost all of the vehicles found or alleged to have been manipulating emissions, including Mercedes, Fiat Chrysler and Chevrolet.

“GM sold its Duramax line as a powerful diesel that magically emitted lesser amounts of harmful NOx pollutants,” Berman said. “But as our firm’s testing revealed, GM could not accomplish what it promised consumers. Instead, it used complex devices to mask its vehicles’ output of emissions, cheating emissions test, cheating purchasers, and putting all of us at risk of increased respiratory illness.”

Hagens Berman’s automotive legal team has dedicated substantial resources to uncovering cheating devices used by automakers. The firm has become a trailblazer in this highly specialized realm, outpacing federal and state agencies in unmasking fraud in emissions reporting.

Hagens Berman’s managing partner, Steve Berman, has dedicated the firm’s resources to upholding the rights of consumers and protecting our environment. The firm is uniquely dedicated to this cause, and is the only firm that has purchased and deployed an on-road emission testing machine to determine if other diesel car manufacturers install similar cheating devices, bringing new cases based on the firm’s own research, time and testing.