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General Motors Co. has been hit with a class-action lawsuit alleging it equipped 2011-2016 GMC and Chevrolet diesel trucks with 6.6-liter Duramax engines that are not compatible with American diesel fuel.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Detroit, alleges GM sold "hundreds of thousands" of diesels with high-pressure fuel injection pumps designed by German auto supplier Bosch that pumped metal shavings into the fuel injection system and damaged the fuel system and engines.

The lawsuit alleges that because American diesel fuel is thinner than European diesel and provides less lubrication, it allows air pockets to form inside the fuel injection pump during operation, which causes metal to rub against metal, generating metal shavings.

"The pump secretly deposits metal shavings and debris throughout the fuel injection system and the engine until it suddenly and catastrophically fails without warning," the lawsuit claims. "Such catastrophic failure often causes the vehicle to shut off while in motion and renders it unable to be restarted, because the vehicle’s fuel injection system and engine component parts have been completely contaminated and destroyed."

"GM promised consumers the continued reliability of their diesel engines, but with increased fuel efficiency and power at greater fuel efficiency," the lawsuit said, referring to the Bosch fuel injection pumps as a "ticking time bomb." 

"However, this came with a hidden and catastrophic cost that was secretly passed on to consumers," the suit continued. 

The lawsuit, originally filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs, says the total number of impacted drivers "is at least in the tens of thousands, and are numerous and geographically dispersed across the country."

GM and Bosch declined comment.

The lawsuit involves: 

  • 2011–2016 2500HD Silverado 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LML engines
  • 2011–2016 3500HD Silverado 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LML engines
  • 2011–2016 2500HD Sierra 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LML engines
  • 2011–2016 3500HD Sierra 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LML engines
  • 2010–2011 Chevrolet Express vans with Duramax LGH engines
  • 2010–2011 GMC Savana vans with Duramax LGH engines
  • 2010–2011 GMC Sierra trucks with RPO ZW9 (chassis cabs or trucks with pickup box deleted) with Duramax LGH engines
  • 2011–2012 Chevrolet 2500HD Silverado 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LGH engines
  • 2011–2012 Chevrolet 3500HD Silverado 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LGH engines
  • 2011–2012 Chevrolet 2500HD Sierra 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LGH engines
  • 2011–2012 Chevrolet 3500HD Sierra 6.6L V8 Duramax diesel trucks with LGH engines.

An unnamed 2012 GMC Sierra 3500 HD driver complained about experiencing engine failure related to fuel-injection issues in a 2014 complaint to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that was cited in the lawsuit. 

"Driving from GM dealer for two miles change fuel filter message appeared and engine died," the driver wrote. "Towed to a dealer diagnosed as a high pressure injector pump failure with metal contamination to fuel system. I have found a bulletin dated 2009 from equipment manufacturers. This joint statement has information about the fuel used in the USA that I was not aware of and may have avoided this failure. This is a very expensive repair as I use my truck for work." 

Software designed by Bosch was also at the center of high-profile diesel investigations against other automakers like Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler.

The lawsuit alleges GM turned to Bosch in an effort to compete with other automakers who were marketing fuel-efficient diesel trucks that were later found in some cases to cheat federal emission rules. 

"From the outset, GM was in competition with fellow 'Big Three' auto manufacturers like Ford and Fiat Chrysler, each racing to dominate the growing American diesel vehicle market," the lawsuit said. "GM looked to Europe and the expertise of international automotive parts supplier Bosch to increase the fuel efficiency and power of its diesel engines." 

GM is the latest in a string of automakers to come under fire for the performance of its U.S. diesel cars.

Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement in January that required it to pay $515 million in civil penalties to the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board. Federal authorities alleged the automaker used software on about 104,000 diesel-powered pickups and SUVs that was similar to “defeat devices” used by Volkswagen AG to cheat U.S. emissions-testing,

The settlement also required Fiat Chrysler to pay $280 million to compensate drivers of Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 pickups from the 2014-2016 model years with 3-liter V-6 diesel engines. Bosch, which provided the software for the diesel emission system, was required to  pay an additional $27.5 million.

In the aftermath of the Volkswagen scandal, six of the German automaker's present and former executives were indicted, and Volkswagen itself was charged with three criminal felony counts for what regulators called a 10-year conspiracy to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to evade U.S. emission standards. Volkswagen was forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties related to fraud.

klaing@detroitnews.com 

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