— An Audi class action lawsuit has been dismissed after owners failed to convince the judge the Start-Stop systems are defective. The systems, according to the class action, shut off the engines too soon and disengage the power brakes and power steering before the vehicles stop.
The plaintiffs also allege the systems fail to restart the vehicles once they begin moving.
The Audi Start-Stop system is supposed to reduce carbon emissions released when the vehicle is idling by shutting off the engine when the brake is pressed far enough to stop the vehicle.
According to the class action lawsuit, these vehicles are affected by the alleged Start-Stop system problems.
- 2017-2020 Audi A3
- 2017-2020 Audi A4
- 2017-2020 Audi A5
- 2017-2020 Audi A6
- 2017-2020 Audi A7
- 2017-2020 Audi A8
- 2017-2020 Audi S3
- 2017-2020 Audi S4
- 2017-2020 Audi S6
- 2017-2020 Audi S8
- 2017-2020 Audi TT
- 2017-2020 Audi TTS
- 2017-2020 Audi Q5
- 2017-2020 Audi Q7
- 2017-2020 Audi Q8
- 2017-2020 Audi SQ5
The plaintiffs allege Audi dealerships refuse to help vehicle owners when they complain about the systems, and Audi sent dealers technical service bulletins (TSBs) which said customers may complain about the complex systems.
The lawsuit doesn't allege any crashes have occurred because of the Start-Stop systems, but the plaintiffs claim they have been injured by the "diminution in value and the costs of repairs required to ameliorate the defect."
Motion to Dismiss the Audi Class Action Lawsuit
The judge granted Audi's motion to dismiss by pointing out the owner's manuals clearly say the Start-Stop system "may turn off the engine before the car comes to a complete stop." And the manual also says any vehicle owner who doesn't want to use the system can manually turn it off.
The judge found problems with a breach of warranty claim made where the plaintiffs allege the Start-Stop systems were not as safe as they had believed based on Audi advertisements, which are not part of the contracts. However, the plaintiffs don't claim the vehicles were "different products than what they bargained for."
The judge ruled those "facts do not support a breach of contract claim."
The judge then turned to an implied warranty of merchantability claim alleged by the plaintiffs. According to the judge, the basic requirement for any claim based on the implied warranty of merchantability is the plaintiff must allege the goods received are not fit for their ordinary use.
However, the breach of implied warranty claims fail because the plaintiffs do not allege the Audi vehicles are not "substantially free of defects."
And while the plaintiffs cite other legal cases, the judge says the Start-Stop system, unlike any of the defects in the cases cited by plaintiffs, is optional in that it can be turned off by pushing a single button.
"Although plaintiffs may be frustrated by the requirement that they must push the button every time they start the engine to disengage the Start/Stop system, they offer no authority that supports treating that frustration as an actionable breach of implied warranty of merchantability." - Judge Leonie M. Brinkema
The judge also found all the plaintiffs who allege they brought their vehicles to Audi dealers to have the Start/Stop systems repaired according to the warranty also allege their cars were examined and they were "told there were no error codes for the system or any deviations from how the system was supposed to function."
Plaintiffs had no better success with fraud claims because the Audi class action lawsuit doesn't name any information about the systems that was concealed.
According to plaintiffs, the Start-Stop system is defective because it "shuts off the engine too soon, so as to disengage power steering and power brakes before the vehicle has come to a stop," and because it does not "restart the engine immediately when the vehicle begins moving."
But the judge says the owner's manuals clearly describe what happens when using the Start-Stop systems.
"The engine stops shortly before the vehicle comes to a stop or if the vehicle is stationary. You can determine for yourself if the engine will stop or not by reducing or increasing the amount of force you use to press the brake pedal. For example, if you only lightly press on the brake pedal in stop-and-go traffic or when turning, the engine will not switch off when the vehicle is stationary. As soon as you press the brake down harder, the engine will switch off."
According to the judge, Audi explains how the system is supposed to function, yet the plaintiffs claim the system is defective because it works as described in the owner's manual. The judge says it is "simply how the system is supposed to operate."
The plaintiffs don't allege the owner's manuals are wrong, but the lawsuit alleges the disclosures in the manuals are fraudulent.
"[T]he Audi manuals describe one operating aspect of the system, that it will shut down the engine while it is still in motion, but they are completely silent on the defect, that the system is designed such that this shutdown (1) causes the loss of power steering and power brakes while the car is still moving; and (2) prevents the use of power steering and power brakes when the engine starts back up and lurches forward." - Audi class action lawsuit
But the judge ruled that contrary to plaintiffs' argument, the owner's manuals clearly do explain the consequences of an engine shutdown for the power steering and brakes.
According to the manual, Audi warns, "[t]he full function of the brake booster and the power steering is not guaranteed" when the engine is turned off. Additionally, the manual has a warning "that the brake booster and power steering only work when engine is running."
The Audi class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division: Pitts, et al., v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., et al.
The plaintiff is represented by Bailey Glasser, LLP, and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.