It was just yesterday that General Motors announced with much fanfare that its Chevrolet Cruze diesel had been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as achieving a 52 miles per gallon rating on the highway.
But in a ruling today, U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington upheld claims brought by Cruze diesel owners who claim the vehicles use a "defeat device" to evade emissions regulations, allowing the suit to move forward. General Motors was quick to deny the allegations.
“These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves. GM believes the Chevrolet Cruze turbo diesel complies with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations," the company said in a statement.
“We are very pleased that Judge Ludington has sustained the claims for thousands of consumers who unknowingly bought or leased polluting vehicles, and we look forward to continuing our vigorous efforts to recover benefit-of-the-bargain damages for these injured consumers,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, representing Cruze owners in the suit
Visions of VW
The suit conjures up visions of the nightmarish Volkswagen "clean diesel" scandal that would end up forcing the company to spend more than $20 billion to buy back VW, Audi, and Porsche diesels that used deceptive software to help the cars pass emission tests.
The VW scandal focused attention on the health risks of diesel exhaust, which includes harmful paritculate matter blamed for emphysema, lung cancer, and other diseases.
An MIT study found that dirty diesels will cause at least 60 U.S.deaths, possibly twice that many if the recall drags on for years, and in 2012, the World Health Organization classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans and also found a "positive association" between diesel exhaust and development of bladder cancer.
But GM has insisted its diesels will deliver the peppy performance and impressive fuel economy VW owners loved without the excessive emissions.
GM powertrain chief Dan Nicholson said last October that there are a lot of "diesel-loyal people who are looking for a brand."
The Cruze comes as close as any American car to the VW Golf, which was the company's most popular diesel model. The 1.6-liter diesel was developed in Turin, Italy, where it is called the "whisper diesel" because it runs so quietly.
The lawsuit says the Cruze comes close to the Golf in more ways than one.
“Diesel emissions fraud didn’t stop with Volkswagen or Mercedes – GM has proven that it too placed greed and profits ahead of thousands of owners who paid premium prices for what they thought were clean diesel cars,” Berman added.
According to the lawsuit, the defeat device installed in Chevy Cruze models results in significantly higher emissions when the vehicle is in use compared to when it is being tested in laboratory conditions. The lawsuit states that GM marketed the Cruze diesel as “a clean diesel” that had emissions below U.S. environmental standards and charged an additional $2,000 or more compared to the gasoline model, but misled the public and sought to evade emissions testing.