September 27, 2022

Class suit accuses Volkswagen, Audi of another cover-up

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Volkswagen logo on Passat.  Photo: Christoph Braun via Wikimedia Commons.

Volkswagen logo on Passat. Photo: Christoph Braun via Wikimedia Commons.

By Charles Toutant, From New Jersey Law Journal

Volkswagen and Audi, which already face hundreds of suits over an alleged scheme to falsify diesel emissions, have been hit with a class action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey accusing the automakers of concealing defective timing belt tensioning systems in their vehicles.

The defect can cause vehicles to lose power at any time, placing occupants at risk, according to the suit, filed in federal court in Newark on May 16.

The suit claims that, based on pre-production testing, design failure mode analysis and consumer complaints to dealers, the defendants knew of the premature failure of the tensioning system in class members’ vehicles but fraudulently concealed them from class members. In addition, according to the suit, the defendants knowingly omitted material facts about the defective tensioning system and its corresponding safety risk, and misrepresented to buyers the standard, quality or grade of class vehicles.

Owners whose vehicles suffered failure of the timing belt tensioning system allegedly have had to pay thousands of dollars to make repairs or to replace the entire engine. The defendants did not reimburse class members for failures that occurred outside the vehicle’s warranty periods, the plaintiffs claim.

The suit brings claims on behalf of a nationwide class of owners or lessees of 2008 through 2013 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles with 2.0L TSI or 2.0L TFSI engines, and a subclass of New Jersey residents who owned or leased such vehicles. On behalf of the nationwide class, the suit brings claims of breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express and implied warranty, violation of the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act and unjust enrichment. The suit also brings a claim for violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act on behalf of the subclass of New Jersey owners.

The engine with the allegedly faulty timing chain tensioner was sold in various Volkswagen Beetle, CC, EOS, Golf, GTI, Jetta, Passat, Golf R32, Rabbit, Routan, Tiguan and Toureg and Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, TT, Q3, Q5 and Q7 models.

Volkswagen has faced other suits over timing chain tensioners in the past, and it is also named in 763 suits that have been consolidated in the Northern District of California by the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation over allegedly rigged emissions systems on cars with diesel engines.

The named plaintiff in the timing chain tensioner case, David Zimand of Englewood, leased a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta in April 2009, and then purchased the car in 2012 when his lease ended. In March 2014, the car experienced tensioning system failure, which resulted in catastrophic failure of the engine, the suit says. He was forced to replace the camshaft, chain, chain tensioner, valves and numerous other engine parts, which he paid for out of pocket, and he was without a vehicle for two weeks, the complaint claims.

A mechanical expert retained by the plaintiff’s counsel said the defendants are replacing defective chain tensioners with redesigned tensioners, the suit claims.

The suit was filed by Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check in Radnor, Pennsylvania, with Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello of Roseland as local counsel. Joseph Meltzer of Kessler Topaz did not return a call about the suit.

Volkswagen spokesman John Schilling and Audi spokesman Mark Clothier each said their companies do not comment on active litigation.

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