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Class-Action Lawsuit Targets Ford, Bosch For Diesel Emissions Violations

Uh-oh, this could get really messy. Ford Motor Company and Bosch are being sued after being accused of conspiring to make diesel engines that cheat in order to comply with US market regulations. The class-action lawsuit is being brought on behalf of F-250 and F-350 owners, alleging both companies worked together to conceal the particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions of F-Series Super Duty diesels built between 2011 and 2017, in violation of the Clean Air Act.

The suit further alleges that engine software provided by Bosch allowed Ford to adjust engine parameters to reach optimum emissions during EPA testing. Once on the road in real life, the engines emittied over 50 times the legal limit of greenhouse gases and particulate matter. This could be a very big problem for both companies.

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The lawsuit, filed January 10th in the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Michigan, claims Ford’s performance, power, and towing capabilities for the Super Duty are only obtained by switching off or turning down emissions controls when the software senses the vehicle is not in an emissions-testing environment. By and large, this is pretty much the same thing that Volkswagen was caught doing. VW ended up on the wrong end of $30 billion worth of fines, according to the latest report from Reuters.

It is alleged that what Ford and Bosch did was also on that scale. On top of everything else, this news hits the streets just before the launch of a diesel-powered F-150 and with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit right around the corner.

Emission Controls

Curiously, this is not all a software-based cheat. For a variety of various engineering reasons (i.e. wanting to get more power and torque for its new range of diesel engines) Ford deviated from the typical exhaust layout. Normally, the exhaust for a modern diesel goes from the cylinders to a particulate filter, then to the catalyst and then, as a final stage, to a urea injection system to treat the exhaust before being vented out the tailpipe. In an effort to get more power, Ford fiddles with the order. The dirty exhaust gas went through the catalyst first, then through the particulate filter and then it got the urea injection treatment.

All that is well and good, except that after going through the catalyst, the plaintiffs and their lawyers say Ford outright bypassed the particulate filter and dumped the undercooked particulate gunk straight out the tailpipe, and into the air we breath.

“Ford also deceived consumers in calling its diesel Super Duty trucks “fuel efficient,” and that without manipulating its software to turn off emissions controls, Ford could not have achieved the fuel economy it promises,” the lawsuit reads.

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2017 Ford Super Duty. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

Multiple Counts

The lawsuit hits Ford and Bosch with 58 counts of violating state consumer laws, false advertising laws, deceptive trade laws, as well as violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The lawsuit further states that Ford did not act alone and colluded with Bosch to evade emissions requirements for the sake of profit. The suit ultimately says it was an “organized scheme.”

It’s worth noting the law firm bringing this to court, Hagens Berman, is the same firm responsible for emissions lawsuits against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, and Volkswagen. Hagens Berman went so far as to conduct their own independent testing of the suspected 2011 through 2017 Ford Super Duty trucks. That’s where they found the emissions of harmful pollutants including the NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions up to 50 times the legal standard. They also say that even in average stop-and-go conditions, emissions are routinely as high as five times the standard.

“Our firm is the only law firm that has developed a system of independent research, including a team of dedicated scientists road-testing vehicles to uncover the next instance of emissions fraud that has blindsided consumers,” said Steve Berman, Managing Partner, Hagens Berman. “Ford has joined the ranks of Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes, and GM in its scheme to rake in profits for diesels that pollute at levels too high to even legally sell in the U.S., all while charging a $8,400 premium over comparable gas Super Duty models,”

“Bosch takes the allegations of manipulation of the diesel software very seriously. It is a well-known fact that these allegations remain the subject of investigations and civil litigation involving Bosch,” Alissa Cleland, Spokesperson for North America, Robert Bosch GmbH, tells Automoblog via e-mail. “Bosch is cooperating with the continuing investigations in various jurisdictions, and is defending its interests in the litigation.”

Cleland added: “as a matter of policy, and due to the sensitive legal nature of these matters, Bosch will not comment further concerning matters under investigation and in litigation.”

We reached out to Ford Motor Company. Our request was returned by Michael Levine, the automaker’s Product Communications Manager for North America.

“All Ford vehicles, including those with diesel engines, comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations,” he said. “Ford vehicles do not have defeat devices. We will defend ourselves against these baseless claims.”

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format