Did GM forget to include “defeat device” on the Monroney sticker or are plaintiffs just trying to make a quick buck?
Unfortunately, auto giants and questionable ethics are at times synonymous, and no two recent cases have better represented that than General Motor’s ignition switch coverup and the scandal that buried it, Volkswagen’s very own Dieselgate. Get ready for the icing on the cake because Reuters now reports that General Motors is getting sued in Michigan on the grounds that it installed cheat devices on Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks equipped with Duramax diesel engines.
This comes just days after the US Department of Justice sued FCA on similar grounds. Unlike the FCA lawsuit, which concerns 104,000 Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees fitted with diesel engines and built between 2014-2016, this one could be more impactful for GM as it covers more than 705,000 Chevy and GMC trucks built between 2011 to 2016. The plaintiff in this case is not the federal government. It’s Andrei Fenner of Mountain View, California and Joshua Herman of Sulphur, Louisiana who own a 2011 GMC Sierra and 2016 Chevy Silverado respectively. Fenner and Herman claim they would have either not bought their trucks or paid less for them if they knew the vehicles were rigged as they claim them to be.
So how did these allegations come up? Buried somewhere in the 184-page suit are on-road tests conducted by the plaintiffs, which found that the engines emit 2-5 times as many pollutants as regulation allows. The suit claims that a fix would grenade fuel economy and performance. GM fired back, saying, “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.” Thing is, GM isn't the only one that has to defend itself. Also named in the suit is German auto parts giant Bosch, which is being accused of helping GM make the defeat devices during “unusually close” collaboration on engine development.
Unfortunately for GM, these relative nobodies have teamed with some serious legal muscle to fight corporate lawyers. Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Hillard Munoz Gonzales are the law firms representing the plaintiffs and the former of those previously helped win billions of dollars in settlement cash for Volkswagen diesel owners. The latter? Well it just happens to handle many of the GM ignition switch lawsuits. It was also involved in a previous lesser-known suit against GM regarding the diesel Chevy Cruze. There’s plenty of courtroom battle that will need to go down before any conclusion is reached, but you can be sure that the EPA and CARB will have a look into the situation using more official tests.
Ultimately, the courts will need to find out if a culture of cheating really does exist among automakers or if opportunistic individuals are taking advantage of increased scrutiny against diesel engines to make a buck off of any emissions discrepancy.