Mercedes Fined $2.2 Billion in the US for Emissions Tampering

27th September 2023

Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and its parent company Daimler reached a settlement with US authorities and car owners affected by the carmaker’s use of defeat devices in their cars and vans. The agreement, which covered around 250,000 vehicles, was formalised towards the last quarter of 2020.

The total cost of the settlement is expected to reach billions, with Daimler paying US authorities approximately $1.5 billion (£1.32 billion), $700 million (£615.34) to affected car owners, and a three-digit amount in millions for settlement requirements.

According to court documents, if Daimler paid all of the 250,000 affected car owners; each one of them will receive $3,290 (£2,892.07) for vehicle repair. Additionally, the manufacturer promised to pay attorney’s fees and the lawyers for the car owners, the amount of which is expected to total $83.4 million (£73.31 million). If the affected vehicle had a previous owner who made a valid claim against Mercedes, the current owner will receive less than $800 (£703.24) of the total amount.

Although Daimler has denied the allegations against Mercedes, they are cooperating and continue to cooperate with US authorities.

The precursor

Mercedes and Daimler’s settlement with their US customers, the California Air Resources Board, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other authorities, is linked to the 2015 Dieselgate scandal that initially involved the Volkswagen Group.

In September that year, Audi and VW vehicles in the US were found to have defeat devices that are used to cheat emissions tests. The devices are illegal as they are engineered to know when a vehicle is being tested so they can manipulate its emissions levels, giving authorities falsified data. 

As soon as the vehicle is taken out of the lab and driven on real roads, the devices shift the vehicle to its default mode, causing it to emit high levels of NOx or nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that endangers the environment and human health.

Authorities found the same devices in Mercedes-Benz vehicles about a year or so later. US owners of Mercedes vehicles gathered together so they could bring a claim against the carmaker. In the UK, however, the Mercedes diesel emissions scandal became a full-blown case only in 2020, when the first batch of Mercedes emissions claims were brought to court. 

In 2019, Daimler reached a settlement with German authorities and agreed to a payment of $1 billion (£879,050,000) in fines for violating regulations for diesel emissions.

Other vehicle manufacturers involved in the scandal include Alfa Romeo, BMW, Nissan, Jeep, Renault, Vauxhall, Citroën, Peugeot, Ford, and Audi, among others. 

Mercedes’ actions

After hogging the spotlight for the use of defeat devices, Mercedes and Daimler started recalling vehicles, paying off fines, and facing class-action lawsuits and litigations. They’ve had 11 of their sites in Germany raided by prosecutors in 2017 to secure evidence in the emissions fraud case.

The company has also been planning to switch to manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs) and the initial focus for this is Europe. 

Additionally, Mercedes and Daimler’s latest settlement with US authorities includes a requirement for the carmaker to recall affected vehicles and offer extended warranties. The manufacturer will only be required to buy back vehicles if they are not able to provide a proper emissions fix within the period provided to them. 

Vehicle emissions: NOx

As mentioned earlier, diesel vehicles with defeat devices emit voluminous amounts of NOx or nitrogen oxide. The amounts often exceed EU and World Health Organization-mandated emissions limits. NOx is dangerous and its impacts can be life-changing.

Nitrogen oxide’s primary components are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). NO2 on its own already has devastating effects, but it can do more damage when it combines with NO to form NOx. 

NOx is known to help produce:

  • Smog – a yellow cloud that covers cities, it indicates poor air quality
  • Acid-rain – harmful to the ecosystem, including forests and lakes
  • Ground-level ozone – endangers plants and crops, making them weak and prone to frost and damage

If a person is exposed to nitrogen oxide emissions, they will suffer from various health-related impacts, including:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lung problems – reduction of lung function
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Other respiratory issues such as emphysema and bronchitis
  • Vocal cords spasm
  • Asphyxiation
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Certain cancers
  • Early death

In the UK, the first case of early death due to exposure to air pollution happened in 2013, when nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah died after a severe asthma attack. Her case was referred to the coroner for an inquest and the final verdict was premature death due to air pollution.

Exposure to nitrogen oxide emissions can also affect a person’s cognitive abilities and may trigger some mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Mercedes emissions claim

NOx emissions affect the environment and human health, and the carmaker’s deceitful act of marketing and selling Mercedes diesel vehicles are high-performing, clean, and safe for the environment are major reasons for any affected car owner to bring to court a diesel claim. This will compensate drivers for the inconvenience that the defeat device (and the carmaker) has caused them.

Find out if you are eligible to bring your carmaker to court for a Mercedes emissions claim. Get in touch with now so you can move forward and start bringing legal action against your manufacturer. Visit their website here