Owners of 2500 and 3500 Dodge RAM trucks filed a class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler and engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., stating that the two entities conspired to knowingly deceive consumers and regulators of illegally high levels of diesel emissions in their vehicles, according to leading automotive litigation law firm Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit accuses the two of committing fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and consumer-protection laws by intentionally misleading the public, concealing emissions levels, illegally selling noncompliant polluting vehicles, knowingly profiting from the dirty diesels and using fraudulently gained emissions credits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use on further production of high-polluting vehicles.
According to the complaint, the affected Cummins diesel engines serve to conceal true emissions output, and in doing so cause the catalytic converter to wear out more quickly, resulting in the vehicle burning fuel at a higher rate, and often requiring customers to replace the converter after the warranty has expired at a cost of approximately $3,000-$5,000.
Affected Vehicles include the following models that are equipped with Cummins diesel engines: 2007-2010 Dodge RAM 2500 (2WD, 4WD), 2011-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 (non-SCR systems, 2WD, 4WD), 2007-2010 Dodge RAM 3500 (2WD, 4WD) and 2011-2012 Dodge RAM 3500 (non-SCR systems, 2WD, 4WD). If you own an affected vehicle, find out more about your consumer rights to potential compensation.
“The sheer level of fraud and concealment between Chrysler and Cummins is unconscionable, and we believe we have uncovered a deeply entrenched scheme,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Chrysler and Cummins spent years lying through their teeth and making empty promises to deliver the cleanest trucks on the market – lip service to deceptively dominate what they saw as a profitable market.”
“The two companies touted value to consumers in their marketing,” Berman added. “Was it valuable to consumers to force them to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for needless repairs of worn-out parts? Did it give consumers value to publicly lie to sell hundreds of thousands of noncompliant, polluting vehicles?”
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 14, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeks reimbursement for a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased the affected trucks, as well as putative damages for the defendants’ unlawful behavior, according to the suit.
About the Defect
In 2001, the EPA announced stringent emissions standards for heavy-duty highway diesel engines, slated to take effect in 2010. The lawsuit states Chrysler and Cummins “saw a golden business opportunity.”
In order to produce a diesel engine that had desirable power and fuel economy, yet emissions levels low enough to meet government standards, Chrysler and Cummins developed the 6.7-liter diesel engine with sophisticated NOx adsorber technology.
The primary emission control after-treatment technologies include a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and a NOx adsorber catalyst system to capture and reduce NOx into less harmful substances, such as nitrogen and oxygen. Testing shows that the catalysts are not durable and do not meet emission standards. Furthermore, injection of fuel to regenerate the DPF occurs with excessive frequency. NOx emissions during these regeneration events are nearly 10 times the emission standards, according to the lawsuit.
The legal limit of NOx emissions for stop-and-go driving is 200 mg/mile. When tested, Dodge RAM 2500s emitted 702 mg/mile on average, and 2,826 mg/mile at maximum emissions. The California (and other “Section 177” states that have adopted the California standard) NOx limit for highway conditions is 400 mg/mile. Testing for the 2500 shows an average of 756 and max of 2,252 mg/mile. All the while, during these periods of excessive emissions, the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic (OBD) system does not capture fault codes nor provide any indication of excessive emissions to the operator.
The lawsuit highlights the marketing of the Adsorber Engine, and the Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 as the “‘strongest, cleanest, quietest’” diesel engine in its class, as well as “squeaky clean,” “super clean,” “a model of cleanliness,” “so clean it warrants a class of its own,” and “durability so impressive, it approaches the inexhaustible.”
“The very environmental laws and regulations Chrysler and Cummins worked so hard to circumvent exist for reasons that are crucial to public health,” Berman said. “In 2012, the World Health Organization declared diesel vehicle particulate emissions to be carcinogenic, and about as dangerous as asbestos.”
The lawsuit states that the successful marketing of the defective polluting vehicles is “due to the tight collaboration among the RICO Defendants – what Cummins called the ‘most formidable partnership in the working world.’”
The complaint states the defendants’ action amount to a scheme to increase revenue and profits and to increase the emissions credits they earned thereby allowing them to sell dirty vehicles as well, all for an additional profit.