Emissions Defeat Devices: Assessing the Liability and Risks for Automakers in Arizona

The recent discovery of emissions defeat devices in diesel vehicles has led to massive fines, lawsuits, and severe damage to automakers’ reputations. This article examines the use of these devices by automakers in Arizona, the associated legal liability under state and federal law, and the substantial risks posed to manufacturers selling cars equipped with defeat devices in this state.

What are Emissions Defeat Devices?

Emissions defeat devices, sometimes called auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs), are sophisticated hardware or software specifically designed to reduce or disable a vehicle’s emission control systems under real-world driving conditions. This improves engine power and performance but comes at the cost of increased nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that can massively exceed federal standards.

These devices sense when a vehicle is undergoing regulatory emission testing on a dynamometer. They switch on full emissions control systems to pass the laboratory tests. But then they turn off or dial back those controls under normal on-road driving conditions to boost performance and fuel economy. This results in cars that can meet emission standards in the lab but, in reality, pollute at much higher levels on the road.

Defeat devices may incorporate advanced software algorithms that detect test cycles and driving patterns unique to the standardized laboratory emissions test procedures. Some may use GPS and speed sensing to determine when a car is undergoing pre-determined test routes. These enable the emissions controls only during laboratory testing and nowhere else.

Use of Defeat Devices by Major Automakers

The most notable emissions defeat device scandal emerged in 2015 when Volkswagen was caught using illegal software to cheat on emissions tests. This “Dieselgate” scandal affected 11 million VW diesel vehicles worldwide and over half a million cars in the United States. It has cost Volkswagen over $30 billion in government fines, private lawsuits, and other direct and indirect costs.

But VW is not the only automaker accused of using defeat devices. In 2019, Daimler AG agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle allegations that it used emissions-cheating software on Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles. Fiat Chrysler has also settled out of court for its part in the scandal.

This widespread use of defeat devices violates the Clean Air Act, which strictly prohibits tampering with or disabling vehicle emission control systems. Automakers can legally install auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs) that reduce the effectiveness of emissions controls under certain conditions, but these must be fully disclosed and justified to regulators. Illegal defeat devices are specifically designed to cheat on emissions tests and deliberately deceive regulators without any valid justification.

Automaker Liability in Arizona for Use of Defeat Devices

Under the Clean Air Act, automakers face fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle for tampering violations and defeat device use. States like Arizona also have broad authority to file lawsuits and impose additional civil penalties for violations of environmental laws that impact air quality and public health.

In May 2002, Fiat Chrysler pleaded guilty to evading emissions requirements for over 100,000 Jeep SUVs and Ram pickup trucks. In a plea deal negotiation with the US Justice Department, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay $300 million in fines. Three of FCA’s employees have also faced trial for misleading regulators about the pollution found in the investigation. Despite paying the fine, Fiat Chrysler has continued to deny all charges.

While the US Justice Department is suing automobile companies, Arizona vehicle owners also have legal standing to file class action lawsuits against automakers on behalf of all affected car owners in the state. Claims could include consumer fraud, breach of contract, false advertising, violation of state consumer protection laws, and other allegations related to the use of illegal defeat devices.

In addition, individual Arizona vehicle owners can sue for significant damages. They can claim the manufacturer intentionally misled them, committed fraud, breached warranties, or violated the state’s strong consumer fraud laws. If successful, these lawsuits could result in awards for refunds, loss of vehicle value, punitive damages, and other costs imposed on the automaker.

Substantial Risks to Automakers Selling Cars in Arizona

The potential consequences for automakers selling diesel cars equipped with emissions defeat devices in Arizona include:

  • Costly investigations, lawsuits, and civil penalties imposed by the Arizona Attorney General’s office and other state agencies
  • Expensive class action lawsuits filed on behalf of Arizona vehicle owners seeking large-scale damages
  • Permanent loss of reputation, brand trust, and consumer confidence, which can destroy sales
  • Greatly reduced resale value of diesel vehicles as news of defeat devices spreads
  • Vehicle sales bans if the EPA refuses to certify cars for sale found to be using defeat devices
  • Hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in potential liability from legal judgments and settlements

The financial and reputational damage from using defeat devices could well prove catastrophic for automakers. Brand loyalty and trust can take decades to develop but quickly erode when customers feel deceived or misled. Even the mere suspicion of emissions test cheating could have immense consequences for manufacturers.

Full transparency, accountability, and putting customers first will be imperative for rebuilding public trust in any automaker caught using defeat devices. Any hesitancy, denial, obstruction, or perceived cover-up could irreparably shatter the brand’s reputation.

Contact Us if You Purchased an Affected Vehicle

If you bought a diesel vehicle that was equipped with an illegal emissions defeat device, you may have valuable legal rights. The experienced attorneys at Monge & Associates can help assess if you have a strong case against the automaker for consumer fraud, breach of contract, false advertising, violation of state laws, or other claims. We have an in-depth understanding of emissions defeat device lawsuits and a proven track record of holding automakers accountable. Our skilled team will thoroughly investigate your situation, gather evidence, and build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

Don’t go it alone against the massive legal resources of major automakers. Having experienced lawyers in your corner levels the playing field and ensures your voice gets heard. With 32 offices in 19 states, including Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia, we will fight tirelessly to get you maximum compensation for being deceived into purchasing a polluting vehicle.

If you think you may have been sold a diesel car with an emissions cheat device, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation on (888) 477-0597.