April 7, 2016
Dr. Dieter Zetsche
Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Head of Mercedes-Benz
70546 Stuttgart, Germany
Re: Mercedes-Benz Dirty Diesel
Dear Dr. Zetsche:
At a 2007 auto show in Washington, D.C., you urged Americans to rethink diesel. You told us that BlueTEC reduces NOx emissions by 90%. You told us that BlueTEC was an ultra-modern, “clean” diesel technology. And then—in the same breath that you criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s CAFE standards—you boasted that your BlueTEC vehicles met 2010 emissions standards three years ahead of schedule, and for all 50 states. You lied.
For almost a decade, Mercedes has perpetuated the myth of the “world’s cleanest diesel.” Mercedes calls BlueTEC-equipped vehicles the “greenest . . . in the land,” “[e]arth-friendly, around the world,” and “respectful of the earth.” Mercedes portrays these vehicles under clear blue skies and even calls BlueTEC emissions “pure, earth-friendly nitrogen and water.” In one BlueTEC advertisement, two rear mufflers sit side-by-side, as though they are a set of human lungs; below, Mercedes tells us that BlueTEC is “[f]or the air we breathe.”
Far from “pure, earth-friendly nitrogen and water,” BlueTEC-equipped vehicles emit NOx at dangerous levels—many times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permits. During virtually all real-world driving conditions, we found that Mercedes BlueTEC technology scarcely achieves any meaningful reduction of NOx emissions. Our equipment has recorded levels of NOx emissions between 4.5 and 30.8 times the legal limit in real-world driving conditions.
Not only has Mercedes violated the Clean Air Act, defrauded consumers, and engaged in unfair competition under state and federal law, you have put the health of Americans in jeopardy. NOx emissions have been linked to increased asthma and other respiratory illnesses. In places like California, where smog is a serious public health concern, NOx-emitting dirty-diesels worsen smog. And according to the EPA, exposure to NOx can lead to hospitalization and premature death from respiratory and heart conditions. Our children and elderly are particularly vulnerable.
We have uncovered your deception. Now it is time for you to do right by your customers, the U.S. government, and the American people. Admit your deception. Fix your dirty-diesel engines. And compensate your customers for the fraud you have committed.
Every day I hear from another Mercedes customer who feels betrayed by your scam. Because of your deception, Mercedes customers who care deeply about air quality and the environment have purchased BlueTEC vehicles. Unwittingly, they have been releasing dangerous amounts of NOx into the atmosphere. I represent these customers in lawsuits that have been filed here in the United States.
As you have said about sustainability at Mercedes, there is still much more to do. Correcting this fraud should be priority-one. To that end, I invite you to sit down with me in the next two weeks to craft a remediation plan. I believe we can work together to create a comprehensive remedy that compensates your customers fairly and allows Mercedes to move forward after this shameful deception.
Steve W. Berman
HAGENS BERMAN SOBOL SHAPIRO LLP