Fiat Chrysler Hit with Amended Class-Action Lawsuit Detailing Multiple Emissions-Cheating Devices in Dodge Trucks
Lawsuit accuses Fiat Chrysler and Cummins Inc. of knowingly installing illegal devices to cheat emissions testing
DETROIT – An amended class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler and Cummins Inc. has unearthed at least two diesel emissions defeat devices installed in 2007-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 trucks to cheat emissions testing and which result in the vehicles exceeding emissions as much as 90 percent of the time they are in stop-and-go (city) driving, according to Hagens Berman.
Affected vehicles include all 2007-2012 Dodge RAM trucks with a Cummins 6.7 liter engine. If you own an affected vehicle, find out more about your consumer rights to potential compensation.
The law firms conducted “rigorous testing,” including extensive portable emission measurement system (PEMS) testing and dynamometer emissions testing using the same device used by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to discover defeat devices. Defeat devices were at the heart of the VW Dieselgate scandal.
The amended complaint followed the court’s order for additional research, which led attorneys at Hagens Berman and co-counsel to test a swath of additional vehicles affected by the defeat devices, uncovering specific instances of de-rated emissions.
“Since Volkswagen was caught red-handed in the Dieselgate scandal, Hagens Berman and my co-counsel have dedicated time and resources to individually testing and researching emissions across the diesel industry,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “We appreciate the thoroughness the court has applied to this case and look forward to proving our findings that Fiat Chrysler and Cummins knowingly installed multiple illegal devices in their Dodge RAM trucks to cheat emissions tests.”
The complaint outlines a new “comprehensive body of evidence” illustrating the firms’ findings of two separate defeat devices that were placed in the affected RAM trucks with Cummins’ and Fiat Chrysler’s knowledge.
Diesel Testing Reveals Emissions-Cheating
The lawsuit outlines the direct collusion between Cummins Inc. and Fiat Chrysler, stating the two “saw a golden business opportunity, and worked together to build a truck that, at least on paper, met these [emissions] standards, three years ahead of schedule.”
The firms performed emissions testing of the vehicles on a chassis dynamometer – essentially a treadmill for vehicles used to test real-world driving conditions, and also used PEMS, a “portable laboratory” to measure emissions of oxides of nitrogen, total hydrocarbon, methane, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide during on-road driving.
The chassis dynamometer testing revealed a defeat device which allowed the vehicles to pass emissions testing during routine testing conditions, but failed during regular driving conditions. Thus, the vehicle performs differently in a certification test environment (on a dynamometer) than in the real world (PEMS testing), which should not be the case.
A secondary defeat device was found which involves one of the vehicles’ primary emissions control after-treatment technologies, the diesel particulate filter. This is where particulate matter (soot) is collected after the exhaust is treated by the diesel oxidation catalyst and NOx adsorber catalyst. The soot captured by the diesel particulate filter is removed from the filter through a process known as regeneration; the regeneration process can be accomplished either by “passive” or “active” means.
In practice, because the location of the NOx adsorber catalyst is in front of the DPF, passive regeneration does not occur often enough to allow the 2007-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 trucks to operate reliably without active regenerations. This conclusion was confirmed by PEMS testing of relevant trucks as well as real-world testing of the plaintiffs’ vehicles, using a “logger” device that tracked the rate of active regeneration during highway and city driving.
During the active regeneration process, NOx emissions are significantly increased – as high as 20 times the NOx standard - according to the lawsuit. In order to compensate for the trucks’ engine design that prioritizes torque and power over legal emissions standards, Cummins introduced a defeat device to dramatically increase the active regeneration frequency. In stop-and-go driving, the 2007 vehicle performed active regeneration 15.8 percent of the vehicle miles traveled, 10 times the frequency allowed in the federal emissions test.
In stop-and-go driving emissions on average were 4.4 times the standard for the 2007 test vehicle, 5.3 times for the 2009 test vehicle and 3.8 times for the 2012. Maximum active regenerations got as high as 14.9 times the standard in the 2012 vehicle which occurred in 11.5% of the vehicle miles driven. The 2007 is out of compliance with emissions standards 90% of the time, and the 2009 and 2012 80% of the time in stop-and-go conditions.
“This testing refutes the claims made by FCA and Cummins that the engines were ‘clean,’ the ‘cleanest’ and complied with federal and state emissions laws,” noted Berman.
The lawsuit accuses the two of committing fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) 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 EPA to use on further production of high-polluting vehicles.
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Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
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