Week Adjourned: 10.8.10

BMW under fire for turbo lag and more...Top Class Actions

“It’s Not Turbo Lag, it’s Foreplay”. Well, that’s what the t-shirts say, but clearly the makers of the ultimate driving machine—BMW—and their drivers must think foreplay’s a bad thing. BMW got hit with a national class action this week over high pressure fuel pumps (HPFP) and turbo chargers.

The allegations in the case concern certain BMW’s produced between 2007 and 2010, and focus on two design defects. 

First, the suit claims that BMW’s new fuel injection system that supposedly incorporates a new ‘state of the art’ fuel pump actually malfunctions at an alarmingly high rate. As a result, many BMW owners have had to repeatedly replace their fuel pumps, sometimes within 1,000 miles of vehicle ownership.

The second problem relates to the BMW turbo chargers. Specifically, the complaint alleges that owners of the affected vehicles were told that BMW’s new engine had eliminated ‘turbo lag.’ ‘Turbo lag’ is the delay between the time that the driver of a vehicle presses the accelerator and the time that turbo chargers on the engine essentially ‘kick in’ to provide added power to the engine.

However, shortly after the vehicles were released, BMW began to receive complaints from owners that they were hearing strange noises from the engine along with a delay in throttle response. BMW eventually discovered that these problems were the result of a design defect in the turbo chargers. And of course, this was not what BMW had advertised in 2006, when they announced the development of the new N54 twin turbo engine.

BMW touted the new engine as incorporating state of the art technology that included dual turbo chargers and a newly developed fuel injection system. BMW represented to the public that this new technology would eliminate ‘turbo lag,’ a common problem in turbocharged vehicles, and that its new state of the art fuel injection system would greatly increase the performance and fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

The lawsuit seeks to compel BMW to initiate an automotive recall in order to replace all of the high pressure fuel pumps (HPFP) in the affected vehicles, and to repair the defective turbo charges and/or reimburse consumers for the diminution in value to the vehicles. That’s the ultimate goal… 

Top Settlements

Verizon got nailed for $90 million this week in its settlement over alleged illegal charges for data sessions or Internet use. 

The $90 million will be split among 15 million unhappy cell phone customers—who will receive credits ranging from $2 to $6 to show up on their Verizon Wireless October or November bills. OMG. It hardly seems worth it. For ex-customers—a refund check will be put in the post… 

The lawsuit was based on hundreds of FCC complaints regarding unauthorized charges from the Verizon’s customers spanning the past three years.

Customers claimed they were charged for data usage or Web access when their phones were not in use or when they mistakenly pushed a button that was pre-programmed to instantly active the phone’s Web browser. Crafty! 

Remember that Insurance Claim From 1999…? And a potentially big insurance settlement this week—Zurich Financial Services Group and its subsidiary, Farmers Group Inc, reached a preliminary settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit pending in Superior Court in Los Angeles. Under the terms of the settlement, $455 million will be made available to up to 13 million policyholders. No idea what the math on this one looks like.

The suit alleged that the class, consisting of policyholders who held automobile, homeowners, and umbrella insurance policies issued through Farmers Insurance Exchange, Fire Insurance Exchange, and Truck Insurance Exchange, were being charged excessive AIF fees.

The proposed settlement could resolve all claims, dating back to 1999, in a complaint originally filed in August 2003. Better late than never? That remains to be seen.

Ok – that’s it for this week. I hear the bar calling my name.

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