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BMW, MINI, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Acura, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagen and Bentley are all being sued by consumers in the US who claim that the 10 carmakers concealed the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning in more than five million vehicles equipped with keyless ignition systems. The risks, the plaintiffs claim, have led to 13 deaths.
According to Automotive News, the complaint filed in the US District Court in Los Angeles states that the toxic gas is emitted when drivers leave their vehicles running, sometimes in garages attached to homes, when they take their key fobs with them, under the mistaken belief that the engines will shut off automatically. They don’t, of course.
From the perspective of the drivers, they believe that the defendants, the car companies, had known the risks of keyless ignition for years, at least since 2003, and yet the companies marketed these vehicles as safe.
“Plaintiffs believed the automakers’ repeated promises that the affected vehicles were safe,” the complaint said. “In fact they are not.” The plaintiffs believe that the automakers could have prevented the 13 deaths, simply by adding a feature to automatically turn off unattended engines. Apparently, GM and Ford had even taken steps to patent a shut-off feature.
The plaintiffs claim that 27 complaints have already been lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since 2009 over keyless ignitions, and that the lawsuit will seek an injunction to require automakers to install an automatic shut-off feature, in addition to seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well.
Automotive News tried reaching out to all the automakers concerned, as well as the lawyers for the plaintiffs, but none of the parties offered any comments. Even the NHTSA is not commenting on the issue.
Apparently, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that approximately 430 people in the US die as a result of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year.
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