Automakers including Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, GM, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz are facing a new class action suit on behalf of millions of Americans who drive cars with keyless ignitions, a convenience feature that allows drivers to start the ignition without removing the keys from their pockets or bags.
According to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in the Central District of California, there have been at least 13 documented deaths and numerous other serious injuries from carbon monoxide poisonings after consumers failed to manually shut off their engines, “mistakenly believ(ing) that removing the keyless fob from the vehicle turns off the engine.”
Several of these incidents prompted personal injury lawsuits, which were resolved in confidential settlements, the class action notes.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges:
Automakers sold keyless fobs “without instituting adequate safeguards, warnings, or other safety features,” including audible engine-on alerts or “auto-off,” which would automatically turn off the engine if the car was left unattended. “Even though an auto-off feature can be implemented without significant effort or cost, the Automakers have refused to act,” the suit maintains.
Automakers also failed to include warnings in the affected cars’ manuals or sales brochures, and “continue to conceal” the safety risk from the public.
Though they have installed auto-off in new vehicles, they failed to recall older cars or provide an auto-off software update. They also failed to respond to complaints filed with the NHTSA.
Notably, Ford and GM filed patents that included language about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning – but, according to the suit, though the two automakers “openly recognized the dangerous consequences associated with keyless fobs… (they) have failed to implement the necessary safeguards.”
The lawsuit claims that ten of the world’s largest carmakers have known for years about the carbon monoxide poisoning dangers. Until this is resolved, the best defense is to make sure when you remove the fob from the car, that you also turn off the engine by hitting the engine on-off button.