By on May 24, 2017

Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Limousine (W 213) 2016Mercedes-Benz E-Cl

A lawsuit filed by two Georgia Mercedes-Benz owners accuses the automaker of failing to rectify a long-standing HVAC problem and stiffing customers with the bill.

Sunil Amin and Trushar Patel claim the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in numerous models dating to the turn of the century are inherently faulty and want Mercedes-Benz and its parent, Daimler AG, to pay damages. They also want the suit to grow into a class action.

The plaintiffs say the issue started a noxious odor emitted from the vehicles’ vents and, despite attempts to have the issue fixed, nothing the automaker has done has made a difference.

Amin owns a 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250, while Patel owns a 2014 Mercedes E350. Both say the vehicles began emitting mold and mildew odors shortly after their purchase, attributing the unpleasant aroma to buildup of those growths in an improperly drained HVAC system.

The automaker knew about the problems well in advance of the sale of their vehicles, the suit claims. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, points to technical service bulletins issued by Mercedes in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2016. Each TSB sent to dealers describes a moldy odor. Complaints were also logged with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Office of Defect Investigation as early as 2008.

While the dealer documents gave tips on how to remove the odors, the plaintiffs claim the “inadequate and temporary solutions” are merely “band aids.” Attempts to fix the issue by replacing the cabin air filter, “flushing the system” and applying cleaning agents didn’t work, they allege, adding the job wasn’t covered under warranty.

Because of this, they claim, owners will likely incur out-of-pocket expenses for a long time. Hence the class action, which is open to all Georgia Mercedes drivers.

The plaintiffs, represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, were dismissed from a similar California class action in March after a U.S. District Court judge demanded only California residents behind the suit. Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. of the Central District of California has allowed the suit to advance.

Numerous models sold between 1999 and 2017 are named in the Georgia lawsuit. Those vehicles include various model years of nearly every vehicle in the Mercedes lineup, as the models contained identical or similar HVAC systems at different times.

[Source: Law360] [Image: Mercedes-Benz]

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47 Comments on “Class Action Lawsuit Targets Nasty Mercedes-Benz HVAC Systems...”


  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Mold and mildew odor is as old as air conditioning. I don’t think any brand is immune to the condition. The only people taking advantage of the plaintiffs are their lawyers.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      not necessarily; it got worse with aluminum evaporator coils. older systems with brass or copper evaporators didn’t have such a problem thanks to copper’s anti-microbial properties.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Oh come on now, Jim, when was the last time that they used brass or copper for AC system evaporators?

        My 1969 Cadillac and 1971 Ford LTD both had aluminum evaporators in them.

        Are you thinking of 1950s cars perhaps?

      • 0 avatar

        Car dealers throughout the U.S. are using chlorine tablets to battle the mold in the evaporator. Chlorine and aluminum react when heated and produces a gas, this is as just as toxic as using ozone generators.

    • 0 avatar
      cdrmike

      Those were the symptoms in my Nissan a/c. Six months later, just out of warranty and with 24k on the odo, the compressor failed. The good people at Nissan said FU, so that was my last Nissan. F them.

    • 0 avatar

      The “truth” about “musty” AC odor is that it is an industry-wide problem. The problem began in 1992-93 when Freon was removed – as required by 1996.
      The AC evaporators, similar to the Takata airbags, are originating in only a few places, and are NOT engineered properly to accommodate the Freon substituted chemicals-which are significantly warmer. There are currently multiple “class-action” lawsuits. I provided the basis for the Lexus-Toyota suit.
      The people who have suffered injury from the “concentrated” mold exposures have been systematically diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (a fictitious diagnosis),because their Drs. don’t know they have been poisoned by MVOC’s. The NHTSA has known about the problem since 1997, and has covered it up (to protect the auto industry).
      The rest you can read when the book is completed :)

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I wonder how much of this stems from people not knowing how to properly use their HVAC system? So many people I’ve driven with turn their system either on or off to adjust temperature rather than adjusting the temperature or settings.

    Especially if the car has an auto climate control system. You don’t raise your house to 90 to heat it up or drop it to 55 to cool it faster do you? Those odd odors and mildew can only be worse in generally hot and humid Georgia.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This is so true. When I worked as a tech, I would say that over 70% of the cars that came in were set at max cool or max heat. I don’t know why people can’t fathom auto climate control.

      On a side note, I wonder if I’ll be able to get a free evaporator on my 2000 E320 before I sell it.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        To funny, gearhead77 & MBella. I saw a YouTube clip yesterday in which a car owner had his climate control set to 90F, apparently in the belief it would warm the car faster.

        One of the reasons I was chauffeur of choice for a particular great-uncle was that I didn’t monkey with his car’s auto climate control settings. He hated it when my brother, my mother, or his girlfriend’s adult children would screw things up. His attitude was, “I was born in 1914, yet I understand this. Why do other people not get it?” I miss that man.

      • 0 avatar
        Bimmer

        MBella,

        From what I understand, MAX Cool uses recirculation of cabin air.

        I usually open my windows to push hot air out of parked car, turn on A/C and start driving. After a few minutes, I’d close my windows and turn on MAX A/C to reach desired temperature. Than I switch on my climate control. No point in running climate control when I sit in traffic, as don’t want to breathe exhaust fumes.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I have a 2016 car that implements auto climate pretty well.

      But my 2012, on the other hand – if it’s on auto climate and the differential is more than 2 degrees, it would blast A/C or heat at max. I don’t like being aggressively arctic blasted when it’s only a little warm. So I’ll turn on auto climate on that car only in the winter. In the summer, I’ll just turn A/C on and off manually and leave it on Level 1 or 2.

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      Yeah, a big “no” to the auto function on the AC. I hate that it occasionally blasts air to the point where I have to fiddle with the music volume to overcome that noise. I set the temp (always on LO) and fans speed(3) and forget it. I have never seen anyone turning the system off to warm up a car. Anecdotes like that make think “how does this person function on a day to day basis without hurting themselves or others if they lack such basic intuition?”

      I MIGHT make adjustments is needed if I have passengers or its a long drive and the weather has changed. But I encourage them to use the seat heaters first. Warm cars make me sleepy, an unwanted condition for the driver…

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        There are differences in the way systems work and some are much more aggressive trying to maintain a setting. Our Mazda doesn’t work exactly the same as our Toyota.My point is that many people don’t use their system correctly. How many times have you seen an 80’s or 90’s Japanese car with the windows fogged up on humid, rainy day? Probably because the recirc function is on but the AC isn’t. Most new cars inhibit this method of operation (i.e. You can’t select defrost with recirc on or without air conditioning selected). People think the recirc setting, since it makes more noise, MUST make the car cooler or hotter faster.

        Don’t turn it off. Adjust the settings!

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          While I have never seen what you describe with the windshields, I do understand what you mean now. Yes, on older cars, the “AC” or snowflake button used to allow running the fan separately from the AC. So you are saying people used to just hit that button and leave the fans running,and I thought you meant they were just turning everything off.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Gearhead is correct. Japanese cars of that era would allow defrost mode without the compressor and would also allow for recirc in defrost – a combo that will never give a fog-free interior. American cars would automatically give you compressor and fresh air while in defrost – you had no choice.

          Ever been in a full car with the climate control set to recirc. Ugh.nasty breath stink.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Breaking news!

    Mercedes-Benz has expensive repairs!

    In other news, water is wet.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    What ever happened to the deadly refrigerant the EU was trying to force Mercedes to use?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      IIRC, Mercedes, Honeywell, and the EU made nice… which means Mercedes lost the argument.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      In use and coming to a vehicle near you. I know for a fact Cherokee has had it since introduction. I believe you score extra bonus CAFE points for using it, as if that system wasn’t corrupt enough.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      1234yf isn’t “deadly”; its just slightly flammable. Don’t be dramatic. Can you provide a case of a single death caused by it?

      R-12 and R-134a decompose into toxic phosgene gas (yes, that phosgene, from WW1) when exposed to high temperatures. This decomposition has absolutely killed people. Do you also regard conventional refrigerants as “deadly”?

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        https://www.mbwholesaleparts.com/downloads/StartunedArchive/2013/1303-mbst-HFO-1234yf.pdf

        You’re buying what they’re selling!

        • 0 avatar
          bikegoesbaa

          I’m not “buying” anything unexamined.

          I’m a refrigeration engineer with more than a decade of experience designing systems with combustible refrigerants; including refrigerants that are a hell of a lot more flammable than R1234yf.

          I will happily discuss this in whatever level of excruciating technical detail you want.

          For what it’s worth, I’m no fan of R-1234yf (or HFOs generally) and would much prefer to see automotive AC move to R-744 or R-290.

          But dismissing R-1234yf out of hand as “deadly” is ignorant and counterproductive.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “I’m a refrigeration engineer with more than a decade of experience designing systems with combustible refrigerants; including refrigerants that are a hell of a lot more flammable than R1234yf.”

            then you’re clearly in on the conspiracy.

            You’re trying to reason someone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            This story isn’t about flammability. It is about the hydrogen fluoride gas produced when R-1234yf burns. I’m not sure why you keep bringing up flammability, when there are plenty of things under a car’s hood that burn. Why aren’t you concerned about the highly corrosive gas that permeates the cockpit when R1234yf burns according to Mercedes-Benz engineers?

            JimZ, congratulations on not noticing that bikegoesbaa is dancing circles around the danger presented by the EU’s chosen refrigerant. You’ve go an intelligence filter, and nothing shall penetrate it.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            You can always replace the slightly flammable refrigerant to 134a. The two refrigerants have characteristic profiles that are so similar that it is uncanny. They are both compatible with the same lubrication oil. A perfect drop-in.

            The thing about most refrigerants and combustion byproducts is that they pretty much all decompose into rather unpleasant substances. Take your exposure pick.

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            “This story isn’t about flammability. It is about the hydrogen fluoride gas produced when R-1234yf burns. I’m not sure why you keep bringing up flammability, when there are plenty of things under a car’s hood that burn. Why aren’t you concerned about the highly corrosive gas that permeates the cockpit when R1234yf burns according to Mercedes-Benz engineers?”

            Hazardous products of decomposition are not a unique risk to R-1234yf.

            R-12 and R134a also decompose into phosgene, which is very toxic.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosgene#Inadvertent_generation

            Can you explain your position further? It seems like you are quite concerned about the decomposition of R-1234yf but not R-134a. Why is that?

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      They added nitrogen generators to engine bays that are triggered with the airbag system. They lost the fight with EU regulators, but they think CO2 systems are very close to production ready. The article I read mentioned European models. I need to ask my friends that still work at Mercedes dealers if it is also the case in the US.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Seinfeld happened to have the issue with another German brand which is also pricy to repair. The BMW 5-Series. You never figure out how the vehicle become odorous but I surmised it was not the valet but could have been the HVAC system, .
    No wonder why he usually drove somewhat more reliable Saab convertibles.

    http://yadayadayadaecon.com/clip/36/

    “While Jerry and Elaine are at a restaurant, a valet parking attendant with body odor leaves Jerry’s car with a lingering smell. The external costs are large: the smell attaches itself to Jerry and Elaine, who have to resort to costly measures to cleanse themselves. Jerry attempts to recoup some of the damage by cleverly bargaining with the restaurant owner to cover the cost of cleaning the car. In the end, the cleaning is not enough, and Jerry leaves the car and keys in plain sight hoping it will be stolen, in which case the insurance company will bear the loss.”

  • avatar
    Fred

    On the other hand my Audi blew it’s compressor a few thousand miles after warranty. Not only did the rebuild the whole system for free, but they replaced the compressor brand. Same thing happened on my Silverado, they charged me to rebuild it and gave me a “lifetime” guarantee, which I took advantage of 2 more times.

    Things go wrong, but if you stand up for it you gain my respect. I’ll never buy another Chevy and unfortuantly a newer Audi was more than I wanted to spend.

  • avatar
    brn

    My car isn’t perfect either. Who wants to join me in a class action lawsuit?

  • avatar

    My friend had this issue with his VW Jetta which he bought new – it was very unpleasant odor. His Jetta also had resin cover on the dashboard falling apart after couple of years. It was the last German car he owned.

  • avatar
    Importamation

    I’ll bet you $100 it’s poor maintenance/owner attention. My 2007 S550 with 190,000 miles smells like a new car. But like I do with all my cars, I clean leaves and debris out from under the hood and the firewall area regularly. I just used a shop vac to clean under and around the air intake for the HVAC. I do it several times a year. The air intake on these cars exits the firewall with a downturned plastic intake hood…..kind of like a kitchen exhaust you might see on the side wall of a building. It’s designed that way to keep leaves and rain etc. from going into the HVAC system. There is a metal shelf of sorts below it, where the passenger wheel well and firewall meet, where leaves and debris collects, especially if you park outside like I do. That turns into a wet smelly mess if ignored. It’s further hidden by the starter battery in my car, so I use the long narrow nozzle on the shop vac to clean behind and beneath the battery. I’ve never seen a car that DIDN’T have this same issue. My 2014 Jeep GC is the exact same design.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Where are all the Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi complaints? I’ve had a couple older Hondas and a Nissan Altima that had been neglected, and there was never a problem with any of them, except the Altima, which got its first AC recharge ten years after the car was built, but never an odor. What are they doing right?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Every automaker has plenty of complaints. If you’re not seeing people complain, you’re ignoring them.

      I used to work for a company that owned three Nissan (one Nissan and two Infiniti) dealers. Quite a few more problems with Nissan than with our GM vehicles (owned about a dozen GM dealers). I was particularly entertain at how our Nissan dealers used GM pickups for parts delivery, vehicle towing, and snow plowing.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ve noticed an occasional odd whiff from my 2013, even after replacing the cabin-air filter, but then I forget about it. Might need some Lysol in the air intake with the fan running, after removing the filter temporarily.

      (Even cleaning the duct behind the filter with a damp sponge helps — it’s amazing how much crap gets up in there!)

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    If anything, Mercedes Benz cars smell much better than lesser autos. My w211 smells practically new after 13 years. Maybe the problem is the smelly owners?

    Mercedes are great cars but they are still made by humans. And since foul odors are not a safety issue, what does NHTSA have to do with this whole business? There are too many problems in the world to be brought to courts. Wonder what penalties can be imposed for filing a frivolous lawsuit?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      MBs built during the aughts…and you are referring to other vehicles as “lesser”. Now that’s funny! The first go-round for Mercedes building to a price point did not go very well. A far cry from the beautifully designed and crafted cars that ended with the millennium.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    I have a 2016 C450 and run the AC every day, even in the winter, and have never noticed any odor in that car. This is actually the best climate control system I’ve ever had.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    The humidity of the area in which you live has a huge impact on car A/C odors, as does the timing of your use of fresh or recirculated air and the length of your trips. There are ways to mitigate it, or you can just accept it. I have been dealing with this for as long as I have been driving, in cars from every major manufacturer. If you live in Phoenix, it probably won’t be an issue. Southern/Gulf states, probably a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I think there are other environmental factors too. When I worked in Northern Alberta for a couple years, the A/C in my ’87 Grand Am smelled horrible every morning, like a humidifier wet filter does after a few weeks of use. I’d have to drive with the windows down for the first few minutes until it cleared. Turning off the A/C for the last few minutes of each drive and running the fan to dry out the evaporator didn’t help.

      I thought I was going to have to do something about it eventually, but when I returned to central Saskatchewan, the smell immediately disappeared and never returned. I figure it must have been the result of some airborne dust or pollen. My girlfriend at the time would experience allergy symptoms whenever she was there but nothing while at school in Central Alberta.

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