Vehicles equipped with keyless ignition systems were the subject of a lawsuit involving ten of the world’s largest automakers by U.S consumers that claim they conceal the deadly risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles, involves the more than five million vehicles within the country sold by these automakers equipped with the feature, which the 28 named plaintiffs claimed to have resulted in 13 deaths, according to a Reuters report.
The issue stems from drivers leaving their vehicles running after taking their key fobs with them, under the assumption their engines would deactivate. They say this can injure or have “deadly” consequences to drivers or passengers who inhale the colorless and odorless gas, especially when these cars are left in attached garages.
Defendants are BMW and MINI, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motor Co, General Motors, Honda (Acura in the US), Hyundai and Kia, Nissan (along with Infiniti), Toyota (including Lexus), and Volkswagen.
The lawsuit’s case hinges on the claim that the accused 10 automakers have long known about the usability defects and risks associated with keyless ignition systems, but chose to close a blind eye and claim that their vehicles are safe without issuing any disclaimers or proper education to new customers at the point of sale and proceeding to market the cars and the feature as safe.
The plaintiffs say that automakers could have averted 13 deaths, at least, by equipping keyless ignition systems with a simple engine shut off feature to deactivate unattended engines. In fact, GM and Ford, the Reuters report continues, have even filed for patents for such a system.
"The automakers had actual knowledge of the dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning consequences of vehicles with keyless fobs that lack an automatic shut-off," the complaint said, while adding that since 2009 there have been 27 complaints lodged with the National Transportation Safety Administration over keyless ignitions.
In the United States alone, 430 people a year die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only Ford, among the accused parties, have given comment on the matter, saying it takes the matter of customer safety “very seriously, and that their keyless ignition system has proven to be “safe and reliable”.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status and an injunction be put into effect, requiring the automakers to install automatic engine deactivation on existing and future vehicles furnished with keyless ignition systems. Additionally, it seeks compensatory and punitive damages.