Smell the money

BMW sued in US, accused of emissions manipulation

main 06992774 source BMW – X5 SUV dirtroad
Dirty on the inside, too? Source: BMW

First VW, then Mercedes-maker Daimler, now BMW. US law firm Hagens Berman on Tuesday launched a class-action suit against its third German carmaker, accusing BMW of manipulating emissions in diesel models. The move follows a raid of three BMW locations by German prosecutors last week.

The class-action specialists charge that two older vehicles in particular – the X5 diesel SUV and 4-door sedan 335d – emit up to 27 times more nitrogen oxide (a toxic gas) than the legal standard.

“At these levels, these cars aren’t just dirty – they don’t meet standards to be legally driven on U.S. streets and no one would have bought these cars if BMW had told the truth,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “BMW chose to join the likes of Volkswagen and so many others, to build an illegal emissions-cheating system.”

A BMW spokesman in the US said the carmaker was studying the lawsuit but denied the basic charge. “As a matter of principle, BMW Group vehicles are not manipulated and comply with all respective legal requirements,” he said.

The law firm accuses BMW of colluding with parts maker Bosch.

BMW is hardly the only target. Mr. Berman’s law firm has more than two dozen active cases running against carmakers. It was also part of the team that won $14.7 billion in 2016 from VW, when the carmaker agreed to a settlement of Dieselgate charges in the US. Hagens Berman’s case against Mercedes-Benz is still ongoing, as are similar cases against Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler.

Before going private, Mr. Berman was a special assistant district attorney. In 1998, he represented 13 U.S. states that eventually obtained $206 billion (€166 billion) from tobacco makers Philip Morris and others in the largest ever US civil settlement.

The law firm also accuses BMW of colluding with parts maker Bosch and manipulating “tens of thousands” of its cars, which were built between 2009 and 2013. BMW used software supplied by German component maker Bosch, which also made the engine software at the heart of VW’s diesel scandal. Bosch, which was also named an accessory in a case against Ford, has categorically denied any wrongdoing. It did settle with VW owners in the US last year and agreed to pay $327.5 million.

BMW had largely been free of Dieselgate allegations until last week, when German prosecutors searched three locations of BMW, including its headquarters in Munich. Around 100 officials searched for evidence, suspecting the carmaker may have rigging 11,400 diesel vehicles of its 5-Series models, which are branded as business sedans or wagons, and its 7-Series, BMW’s most luxurious limousine. The carmaker said the cars involved received an “incorrect software update” and there was no deliberate manipulation. BMW is correcting the mistake.

Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. Handelsblatt reporters Markus Fasse, Jan Keuchel and Peter Köhler contributed to this article. To contact the author: kreijger@handelsblatt.com

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