By on May 25, 2017

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LTZ crew cab pickup

Suing automakers over diesel emissions violations is quickly on its way to becoming passé.

Since Volkswagen admitted to installing software that circumvented pollution laws, regulators have been on the hunt for their next big target. While it might make their efforts seem like a bit of a witch hunt, there’s good reason to be on the lookout. Studies have shown diesel emission levels are often much higher than analysts expected, with experts attributing the results to the high probability that other automakers are skirting regulatory guidelines — likely by way of defeat devices.

Daimler, Renault, and PSA Group are all being investigated in their home countries as FCA faces legal action within the United States.

General Motors is now being sued for allegedly installing defeat devices in its trucks to sidestep emissions tests, making it the sixth major manufacturer accused of diesel cheating since 2015. However, General Motors isn’t dabbling in gray areas, acting confused, or assuring the public it will get to the bottom of the accusations. It says the claims against it are flat out wrong. 

Pat Morrissey, director of corporate communications at GM, issued a concise two-sentence response after news of the lawsuit broke. “These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” Pat Morrissey stated. “The Duramax Diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations.”

Owners and lessees of some 705,000 pickups powered by Duramax diesels filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday, claiming GM had installed defeat devices in Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras from 2011 through 2016. According to Bloomberg, it’s their assertion that the automaker misrepresented the Duramax’s abilities and that the system produces two to five times the legal limit of pollutants under normal driving conditions.

“GM claimed its engineers had accomplished a remarkable reduction of diesel emissions,” attorney Steve Berman said in the formal complaint. “These GM trucks likely dumped as much excess poisonous emissions into our air as did the cheating Volkswagen passenger cars.”

Berman is also currently representing drivers and dealerships in the litigation against FCA and previously went up against Volkswagen before it was slapped with $24.5 billion worth of penalties, fines, and vehicle recalls. Another similar thread between the cases is the inclusion of German auto supplier Bosch.

In the case against General Motors, Bosch is named as a defendant involved in the installation of three separate defeat devices, particularly those relating to the emission of nitrogen oxide pollutants. However, GM has already disclosed numerous on-board devices that help mitigate NOx levels, all of which have received EPA approval. Among the most noteworthy are the Duramax’s selective catalyst reduction system and treated diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), both of which serve to reduce NOx emissions. Both are standard items on modern diesel trucks and have proven to be one of the better ways to adhere to emissions guidelines without sacrificing performance.

As the name suggests, the catalyst reduction system is selective and not perpetually active — meaning there are occasions where emission levels can fluctuate outside of prescribed levels (when the vehicle is warming up, for example). Adequate levels of DEF are also required for the process to convert NOx into nitrogen gas and water. Without it, the truck’s computer eventually forces it to run in a more lethargic mode and may eventually forbid the vehicle from restarting.

In addition to this, Duramax-powered vehicles have a Regen mode that serves to burn off soot accumulated in the diesel particulate filter (DPF). During the process, fuel is injected into the exhaust in order to raise exhaust gas temperatures high enough to clear the DPF.

[Image: General Motors]

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21 Comments on “Lawsuit Accuses GM of Using Defeat Devices in Duramax Diesel Pickups...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “As the name suggests, the catalyst reduction system is selective and not perpetually active”

    that’s not what “selective” means. it means that unlike a straight reduction catalyst you’d find a gas engine exhaling through, a selective reduction catalyst needs a reductant added to the mix in order to work. In diesels this reductant is ammonia sourced from urea.

    “meaning there are occasions where emission levels can fluctuate outside of prescribed levels (when the vehicle is warming up, for example).”

    no catalyst- not even the ones in gas cars- work when cold.

    at any rate, does this guy have any evidence for his claims? or just a money-grubbing lawyer with visions of a huge payday?

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Thank you. Also, just about every modern diesel has a SCR system, so it’s not the cause of whatever this lawyer made up so he can cash in on it.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I would be interested to know how many of those 700k pickup truck owners he had to get to back the lawsuit to get the class action certified. Pickup truck owners strike me as a pretty loyal bunch, I doubt they would be lining up for this class action. So this attorney finds 100 owners to push their claims and gets a payday for 700k owners when it settles. Doesn’t seem right. Id be surprised if anyone else gets caught outright cheating. One would think that after VW, you would just come clean. I CAN see several companies playing fast and loose with the rules, at least in Europe but probably not cars sold in California. There are a lot of grey areas, technicalities, terminological inexactitudes, etc. that can at least create the illusion of compliance.

      In any event, another nail in the coffin for diesels. The end is near for diesels in passenger vehicles, probably not for trucks. Smell ya later.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      All modern engines with cats in them would fail to meet regulatory standards upon startup. The Temps required for them to work properly and still maintain durability almost always needs at least 5 minutes or so before they reach intended performance function. With diesels it’s even longer due to the higher Temps involved. If the suit can only identify initial startup as the point of out of regulatory emissions, we mind as well just stop using ice engines. Now if they can identify specific “controls” that were not disclosed to the epa than it might get more interesting, especially if they can show a correlation between out of spec emissions and that “control”.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    “These GM trucks likely dumped as much excess poisonous emissions into our air as did the cheating Volkswagen passenger cars.”

    This guy needs to hire a spokesman or a speechwriter. He can’t even do incendiary lawyer rhetoric right.

    This is like Johnny Cochran saying “if the gloves don’t fit, you must opt to vote not guilty” and calling it a day.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    “However, General Motors isn’t dabbling in gray areas, acting confused, or assuring the public it will get to the bottom of the accusations. It says the claims against it are flat out wrong.”

    Errr… this isn’t a “However” because that would imply the response is unique. Both VW and FCA loudly proclaimed their innocence when the original accusations where made. While FCA is still up in the air, we all know how VW turned out.

    Really, the “I/We vigorously deny these accusations and look forward to proving them wrong.” is 100% bog-standard PR/lawyer-speak, and is deployed even when it’s subsequently shown that the person/business was guilty as heck, and cuts a plea bargain admitting this.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Owners and lessees of some 705,000 pickups powered by Duramax diesels filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday, claiming GM had installed defeat devices in Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras from 2011 through 2016”

    Ah, no.

    A law firm filed a suit *notionally on their behalf*.

    There’s a very large difference, eh?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This is just another slip-and-fall lawyer hoping to hit the jackpot. If he wins, he’ll make out like a bandit, since he’ll get 25-40 percent of whatever GM pays out.

    On a related note, I saw my first Duramax-powered GMC Canyon this morning. I saw a white Canyon up ahead, and about the same time caught a faint whiff of diesel exhaust. I passed the guy and first noticed the larger than normal tailpipe angled out below the right-hand corner of the bed, similar to the ones on the Silverado/Sierra HD trucks, except without the vents that allow mixing of fresh air when the truck is moving. Then I saw the Duramax emblems on the hood.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This is one of the lawyers involved in the $216b tobacco settlement:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Berman_(lawyer)

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    And the band played on…..

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I can’t speak to the validity of this claim, but I will stick with what I said seemingly ages ago now. There’s likely a very obvious reason no one else producing diesel cars/trucks figured out and ratted out VW for what they were doing.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I’m familiar with how benchmarking is done. it’s rather more likely that the rest of the automakers here didn’t know what VW was up to, for one of two reasons:

      1) they had no plans to introduce diesel cars into the US market, so they didn’t benchmark VW/Audi TDI cars at all, or

      2) if they did, they probably just put them on rolls and ran the standard test cycle, which the cars would pass.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Big difference between this and having the EPA/CARB/EU come after you.

    Hagens-Berman: Making our own coffers richer for decades, mostly at the general expense of society.

  • avatar
    fun2drive

    There is a big difference between actively defeating emissions controls (VW) and trying to keep close to the emissions limits (FCA has reported that was what they targeted).
    Now the lawyer community can smell a big payday to just have their complaints go away.
    There can be no doubt that this community of lawyers will be trying to gather diesel owners of every make and do the same thing. I expect ford, BMW and any other maker to get hit with these suits regardless of their merit and evidence. That is the key. Used to be that a complaint had to have credible evidence which so far regarding FCA and GM now with others coming soon there isn’t any. That under the legal system constitutes a frivolous lawsuit when judges actually used judgement.
    Regarding Bosch. This is a joke Bosch supplies the auxiliary emissions devices and the manufacturer does the programming. How are they at fault? They have no control over how their devices are used. Ridiculous.
    By the way there is no evidence that the emissions levels used by the EPA which is a derivative of CARB are based on scientific evidence but typical California hysteria………..

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “…typical California hysteria………”.

      No “VW style” cheating here. Figure they caught FCA and GM on technicalities.

      “Defeat devices” do need to be “disclosed”, but are designed-in to protect the engine from damage under some conditions, or override the minimum “standard”, say when the vehicle runs out of urea fluid, and the driver keeps on driving.

      California is more (financially) broke than “hysterical”, but yeah. Follow the (fines) money.

  • avatar
    kurkosdr

    That is one ugly-ass truck.


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