(Reuters) — Mercedes-Benz is facing more than 300,000 claims at London’s High Court from the owners of diesel vehicles it claims were fitted with “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests.
The German carmaker is said to have misled customers that some diesel vehicles meet the requirements for nitrogen oxide emissions.
Mercedes-Benz denies that any defeat devices, which could alter the vehicles’ emission levels, have been installed in its vehicles.
A company spokesperson said in a statement: “We believe the claims are without merit and will vigorously defend against them.”
The mass prosecution follows the “dieselgate” scandal that engulfed Volkswagen after it admitted to cheating on US diesel engine tests, costing the carmaker more than 32 billion euros ($34 billion) in vehicle overhauls, fines and legal costs so far.
Almost 300,000 claims have been issued against Mercedes-Benz in London with around 35,000 more in the pipeline, lawyers said at a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Mercedes-Benz and the plaintiffs have agreed to handle the claims jointly.
Oliver Campbell, representing the plaintiffs, said in court filings that some Mercedes-Benz vehicles contained technology designed to lower NOx emissions, but only worked properly at specific temperatures.
He said this meant the vehicles produced “much higher levels of NOx than was permitted”; and that Mercedes-Benz has no viable defense to the suit.
However, lawyers representing Mercedes-Benz denied that its vehicles contained defeat devices and said there was no reduction in the effectiveness of their emissions control systems.
Helen Davies said in written arguments that the lawsuit builds heavily on separate litigation in Britain brought against Volkswagen, which last year agreed to pay $235 million to settle 91,000 claims without any admission of liability.
But, she added, there were “crucial differences” with the case against Mercedes-Benz, as its vehicles have not used software that recognizes when they are tested for emissions.