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Wed, Oct. 16

Attorney General charging Mercedes Benz with lying to Arizona consumers

PHOENIX — On the heels of legal victories against Volkswagen, the Attorney General’s Office is now charging Mercedes Benz and parent company Daimler AG with lying to Arizona consumers about its own clean-burning diesel engines.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court contends that the German automaker marketed its BlueTEC diesel vehicles as converting nitrous oxide emissions into “pure, earth-friendly nitrogen and water,’’ producing “fewer greenhouse gases that gasoline’’ and exceeding legally required emission standards.

But what the company did not disclose, the lawsuit states, is that these BlueTEC engines were programmed to turn off or reduce the emission-reduction systems during normal driving.

“As a consequence of this critical concealed material fact, consumers are unaware that — contrary to defendants’ representations — the affected Mercedes vehicles are not clean diesels and, to the contrary, emit enormous amounts of NOx pollutants into the atmosphere,’’ according to Rob Carey, whose law firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro was retained by the state by virtue of its expertise in these kind of cases.

The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for potentially up to 10,000 Arizonans who purchased or leased certain Mercedes vehicles between 2007 and 2016, as well as $10,000 in penalties for each violation.

Calls to company officials for comment were not immediately returned.

At the heart of the issue is that diesel engines can produce more torque than standard gasoline engines because they operate at very high temperature and pressure.

“But this greater energy and fuel efficiency comes at a cost: Diesels produce dirtier and more dangerous emissions,’’ the lawsuit states. One of these are oxides of nitrogen -- known as NOx -- which produces compounds that react with sunlight to form ozone which has been linked to serious respiratory dangers.

“Defendants understood that its BlueTEC vehicles as environmentally superior to gasoline cars would be material to a reasonable consumer interested in environmental issues with respect to a decision to purchase a car,’’ Carey wrote. And the lawsuit cites a series of statements and commercials by the company promoting those clean-air benefits.

The vehicles sold did, in fact, pass federal emissions tests.

What caused people to take notice, however, was the discovery several years ago that Volkswagen, marketing its own clean-diesel vehicles, had programmed them to pass the tests and then shut off the emission-reduction systems.

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