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Mercedes-Benz Faces Inquiry about BlueTec Diesel Emissions

Mercedes-Benz Faces Inquiry about BlueTec Diesel Emissions

By Philly Murtha, February 29, 2016

This week, U.S. clean-air regulators asked Mercedes-Benz for information about diesel emissions levels in some of its vehicles powered by BlueTec diesel engines, according to German daily Handelsblatt, citing parent firm Daimler, which said the company is fully cooperating with the request.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly has asked for an explanation regarding emissions controls and levels following a class-action lawsuit filed in mid-February in New Jersey against Mercedes for deceiving car owners about emissions for vehicles with BlueTec engines.

2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec 4Matic trunk badge photoThe suit says Mercedes uses a shut-off device in its BlueTec engines that turns off pollution controls to prevent condensation from building up in the exhaust system when ambient temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. Condensation could lead to corrosion and less-effective engine and exhaust.

The lawsuit alleges that Mercedes’ diesel engines could pollute as much as 65 times more NOx than legal in cold weather. Models named in the suit include the diesel-powered M-Class (ML320 and ML350), and GLE SUVs, plus E-Class and S-Class car models. The suit wants the court to order Mercedes to recall the affected vehicles or replace them, in addition to unnamed damages.

Mercedes touts its BlueTec diesel engines for using the AdBlue process that injects a special liquid (urea and deionized water) into the exhaust to convert NOx emissions into harmless nitrogen and oxygen. This technology reduces exhaust gas emissions but also maintains performance—power and torque—according to Mercedes.

A Daimler representative told the German newspaper that the suit is unfounded and without merit. Mercedes claims in marketing messages that its BlueTec powertrains are "the world's cleanest and most advanced diesel." The German luxury automaker said in a statement that its cars conform to all rules and regulations.

The lawsuit and federal probe come five months after Volkswagen AG received its notice of violation from the EPA to recall diesel-powered vehicles with emissions-cheating defeat software that violated federal clean-air standards. So far, California and U.S. clean-air regulators have not approved technical fixes from the German automaker. In the meantime, U.S. consumer groups are urging regulators to come up with reparations packages in addition to fixes that could include helping to build an infrastructure for electric cars as well as cleaning up pollution released by dirty diesel engines, according to Bloomberg News.

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