RV emissions cheat

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In a déjà-vu moment, the federal government has again come down on an automaker for big-time cheating on emissions testing. Manufacturer Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (collectively “Daimler”) have signed off on a settlement to clear the air over exhaust emissions violations. These smell a lot like the Volkswagen cheat of a few years back. Daimler sold diesel-equipped rigs with software that would cheat on emissions tests. If your RV is built on one of those cheatin’ chassis, then you’ll be getting a recall notice. Daimler will be bringing your rig into emissions compliance. We’ll call it the RV emissions cheat, but certainly not all of the 250,000 vehicles being brought back were RVs. Nevertheless, the company is paying dearly.

Daimler misdeeds

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Daimler programmed software and added “defeat devices” into 250,000 light- and medium-duty diesel equipped rigs. These included Sprinter vans and some passenger cars. Model years involved ran from 2009 to 2016. The scheme allowed the vehicles to operate differently under some “normal driving conditions” than when on federal emissions tests. As a result, the rigs pumped out more nitrous oxide under normal drive time than legally allowed. The EPA points out this pollutant is linked to nasty health issues including heart and lung problems.

To make up for its misdeeds, Daimler will be whacked $875 million in civil penalties and will have to recall and fix the illegally polluting vehicles. Of course, pollution is already out of the tailpipe, so to speak, and can’t be taken out of the environment. To mitigate, Daimler will also have to pull 15 older diesel locomotive engines off the tracks. These will be outfitted with equipment or engines that make them meet pollution standards more stringent than those in place than when originally built.

Owners see little relief in RV emissions cheat

Under the settlement, folks who own the to-be-recalled vehicles won’t be receiving any direct monetary compensation for their trouble. It’s not clear how long a recalled rig will be in the shop. Some will require more retrofit work than others, so presumably they’ll be out of their owners’ hands longer. However, all owners will see an extended warranty applied to their refreshed rigs. Of course, that warranty will only cover hardware or software affected by the recall. Will fuel economy on affected vehicles go down after the refits are done? That’s not clear. If it does, apparently that’ll be on the owner’s “dime.”

We should note, this initial settlement involves the U.S. EPA. The State of California is a co-plaintiff in this settlement. Some of the conditions are different for vehicles sold in California.

Here’s a list of ALL models affected by this recall.

  • 2010 – 2012 Sprinter equipped with 6-cylinder engines. 46,086 vehicles
  • 2013 – 2016 Sprinter equipped with 6-cylinder engines. 74,332 vehicles
  • 2014 – 2016 Sprinter equipped with 4-cylinder engines. 40,981 vehicles
  • 2009 GL320 equipped with 6-cylinder engines
  • 2009 ML 320 equipped with 6-cylinder engines
  • 2009 R320 equipped with 6-cylinder engines
  • 2010 -2011 ML350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines
  • 2010 – 2011 GL350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines
  • 2010 – 2012 R350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines. These and above 5 models, 27,847 vehicles
  • 2011 – 2012 E350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines. 5,702 vehicles
  • 2012 – 2013 S350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines. 1,601 vehicles
  • 2012 – 2014 ML350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines.
  • 2012 – 2016 GL350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines. These and above ML350, 32,764 vehicles
  • 2013 – 2015 GLK250 equipped with 4-cylinder engines. 9,580 vehicles
  • 2013 E350 equipped with 6-cylinder engines. 1,267 vehicles
  • 2014-2016 equipped with 4-cylinder engines. 5,713 vehicles
  • 2015 ML250 equipped with 4-cylinder engines. 3,588 vehicles
  • 2016 GLE300d equipped with 4-cylinder engines. 1,818 vehicles

Not all of the retrofits will be available immediately. If you’re affected, check out the official news release on this issue, found here.

Final court approval awaits

While the settlement has been worked out between the feds and Daimler, the settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period. As of press time that had yet to be set. Following that, a final court approval must be made. Information on submitting a comment is available here.

The earlier affair of Volkswagen’s “emissions cheat” left a foul odor with VW owners. Just how the Daimler debacle will be reckoned in the future is yet to be known. Any way you slice it, an RV emissions cheat just doesn’t pay.

More reading

Your Sprinter RV cost too much? Blame chickens! 

Will California’s diesel law affect you as an RVer? 

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