The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) wants to seek compensation for Mercedes customers who are allegedly affected by exhaust gas fraud. He has therefore submitted a model declaratory action against the car manufacturer Daimler before the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court, said board member Klaus Müller in Berlin today. The consumer advocates accuse Daimler of deliberately manipulating the emissions values.
In the opinion of the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), the group had used impermissible exhaust technology in hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles of its master brand Mercedes-Benz and therefore had to recall automobiles en masse. However, Daimler considers the functions to be permissible. “Despite official recalls, Daimler AG continues to deny that it has deliberately manipulated the emissions levels of its vehicles,” said Müller. The court should now determine this and give consumers legal clarity.
The consumer advocates essentially accuse Daimler of having installed different shutdown devices. This enables cars to comply with the permissible limit values for exhaust gases during the test bench runs for type approval. In road traffic, however, they sometimes significantly exceed this limit.
Restriction to the OM651 engine
According to the vzbv, around 254,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Germany are affected by the official recalls. In its model lawsuit, however, the association focuses on the engine with the designation OM651. This means that the owners of almost 50,000 Mercedes GLC and GLK models could join in, which could be shut down without a software update.
Upon request, Daimler announced that the asserted claims were considered unfounded and that they would continue to defend themselves against them – also in the context of a model declaratory action. However, this would allow “important legal issues to be clarified more efficiently, which we generally welcome,” it said.
The statute of limitations threatens at the end of the year
From the point of view of consumer advocates, the model declaratory action is primarily intended to facilitate the way to compensation. Because the cars were recalled in 2018, the cases are threatened with statute of limitations at the end of the year. Daimler customers can prevent that if they join the lawsuit.
The vzbv had filed a similar model declaratory action against Volkswagen in 2018. At the beginning of 2020, consumer advocates and the Wolfsburg-based company agreed on a settlement that around 245,000 customers accepted. The group paid them between 1350 and 6250 euros, depending on the age and type of vehicle. Müller said that one could also imagine similar discussions in the Daimler case: “We are always ready to enter into settlement negotiations with Daimler.”
Cars with high limits would not have been bought
Shortly after the agreement at that time, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that Volkswagen had systematically deceived its customers: If they had known that the cars with a certain engine emitted far more pollutants than could be measured on the test bench, they would probably have opted for a different vehicle. The group is therefore obliged to pay damages. In most cases, plaintiffs were given the right to return their car, but had to take credit for use. Instead, many agreed with Volkswagen on a one-off payment and kept the car.
Müller said that the starting position is now different than in the case of Volkswagen. “In contrast to Volkswagen, at Daimler, instead of a shutdown device, there is a whole hodgepodge of manipulation allegations in the room.” In essence, three things were named that will be brought into legal focus: a storage mode that controls the injection of Adblue urea solution and thus nitrogen oxide emissions, exhaust gas recirculation and the coolant temperature control in the affected cars.
Did Daimler act deliberately or immorally?
Most recently, in the case of Daimler, there had already been a whole series of individual claims for damages – with different outcomes. The success depends on “how those affected describe their case in court,” say the consumer advocates. There is still no legal clarity as to whether Daimler acted deliberately or immorally.
Müller said the technical diversity of the vehicle models posed a hurdle for the courts. The cases cannot be generalized across the board like at Volkswagen. Daimler announced that in the individual proceedings before German regional and higher regional courts, around 95 percent of the cases had been decided in favor of the company. However, according to the company, this invoice is all about alleged fraud and not just those involving cars with the OM651 engine. The model declaratory action now only relates to these vehicles.