Hundreds of thousands of Ford Super Duty pickups pollute at up to 50 times higher than federal emissions standards, a new class-action lawsuit alleges.
Hagens Berman, the same Seattle law firm that filed claims against Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler for rigging diesel emissions tests, is putting the spotlight on Ford. It claims that 2011–2017 F-250 and F-350 pickups with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 were equipped with the same Bosch “defeat device” used by VW and other automakers. The lawsuit is seeking up to $4.2 billion, according to managing partner Steve Berman, for damages affecting more than 500,000 vehicles.
In its filing with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Hagens Berman offered no direct proof that Ford colluded with Bosch on a defeat device, which the U.S. Department of Justice proved took place between VW and Bosch. In fact, the law firm tacitly admits that the Ford pickups pass the federal emissions-testing protocol, known as Federal Test Procedure 75 or FTP-75. But Hagens Berman alleges, referencing its own research conducted on the road with portable emissions-measuring devices, that Ford routinely tuned the engines to exceed emissions at the “extreme.” It claims that Ford allows the engine to produce excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions once the engine is running at 70 percent of its available power and that a Super Duty towing the maximum 24,000-pound capacity would expel excessive emissions on any road grade of 0.7 percent or higher. Hagens Berman claims that the emissions controls are “either very well behaved or for all practical purposes turned off.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Ford—as well as General Motors—designed its exhaust treatment to favor cold starts and pass emission tests, while in normal driving it would allow excess NOx. The suit says that Ford and GM placed the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) component ahead of the diesel particulate filter, where in other diesel models the order is reversed so that NOx can clean the particulate filter. In this way, according to the suit, Ford could improve performance by lowering the effectiveness of the SCR, allowing more NOx through the system and not burning additional fuel to clean off the particulate filter.
“All Ford vehicles, including those with diesel engines, comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations,” the automaker said in a statement. “Ford vehicles do not have defeat devices. We will defend ourselves against these baseless claims.”
But while the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted its own real-world tailpipe tests since the VW scandal broke in late 2015, there is no defined real-world testing procedure that Ford or any automaker has to follow. Whether real-world emissions are “extreme” is not the issue. Hagens Berman must prove that Bosch and Ford willingly developed a defeat device that would purposely evade federal emissions limits and cheat the actual test procedure. Whether this claim against Ford is valid—plus similar claims against diesel vehicles made by GM, Mercedes-Benz, and FCA—is yet to be seen.