Mercedes-Benz and parent company Daimler AG face a proposed class action that alleges the panoramic sunroofs found in certain vehicle models can spontaneously shatter.
The 106-page complaint claims the automakers have failed to meet the engineering challenges that come along with replacing the metal portion of a vehicle’s roof with large sections of glass, as the following Mercedes-Benz models suffer from an “inherent design, manufacturing and/or materials defect” that can cause their sunroofs to shatter without outside influence:
2015 Mercedes Maybach S-600;
2013-present SL-Class; and
2013-present SLK Class.
According to the lawsuit out of Georgia federal court, the panoramic sunroof shattering events are so powerful that Mercedes drivers have compared the sound to that of a gunshot, after which fragments of glass rain down upon a vehicle’s occupants, sometimes while driving at highway speeds. Mercedes-Benz does not warn current or potential drivers of the dangers associated with its panoramic sunroofs, the suit claims, alleging the automaker continues to sell and lease vehicles with defective sunroofs without disclosing the spontaneous shattering issue.
The suit says that while some automakers have used laminated glass for their panoramic sunroofs, Mercedes has opted to use tempered glass that features large areas of ceramic paint. According to the lawsuit, the tempering process creates an outer layer of compression shrink-wrapped around the middle of the glass that constantly presses outward, causing tension. If the compression layer of a panoramic sunroof is compromised, the entire piece of glass will fail “catastrophically, and often explosively,” the case claims. As the lawsuit tells it, the problems with panoramic sunroofs are compounded when automakers, such as Mercedes, use thinner glass during manufacturing. From the complaint:
“Mercedes, like other manufacturers, uses thinner glass in panoramic sunroofs to save weight and thus improve fuel efficiency because Mercedes, like other automobile manufacturers, are [sic] under mandates to improve fuel efficiency. Thinner glass, however, is very difficult to temper properly (especially when thicknesses are 4mm or less) as the compressive layers are thinner, increasing the probability for the glass to be compromised and result in catastrophic failure.”
The suit goes on to claim the ceramic paint applied prior to the tempering of Mercedes panoramic sunroofs, which appears as a black band along the edge of the glass, is an adulterant that significantly weakens the structural strength and integrity of the glazing used on the sunroofs. Another challenge with panoramic sunroofs, the lawsuit says, is the need to ensure the glass is fastened to the vehicle with a sufficient degree of tightness to reduce wind and road noise and prevent rainwater leakage. At the end of the day, the glass used for Mercedes-Benz panoramic sunroofs simply may not be able to withstand regular driving conditions, the case claims:
“In the Mercedes models at issue, the compromised tempered glass cannot withstand the pressures and flexing that the sunroof frame and vehicle demand, even when the vehicle and sunroof are brand new. The consequence is that under ordinary driving conditions, and in some instances when the vehicle is parked or not otherwise in motion, the glass spontaneously shatters.”
Per the case, Mercedes-Benz has known of the panoramic sunroof-shattering issue since at least 2013, if not earlier, given its access to pre-release testing data, consumer complaints, high sunroof failure rates, replacement part warranty and sales data, and customer surveys. Given the amount of data it has access to, Mercedes-Benz “knew or should have known” the sunroofs in the above-listed vehicles were defective, the suit says. At any rate, the automaker should have learned of the widespread nature of the problem “from the sheer number of reports” it received from dealerships, the lawsuit continues.
According to the suit, the problem with Mercedes-Benz panoramic sunroofs is a material fact a consumer would consider when deciding whether to buy or lease one of the vehicles listed above. The plaintiff and other proposed class members would not have bought or leased their vehicles, or would have paid less for them, had they know of the shattering sunroof problem, the suit attests.
The complaint echoes lawsuits filed in May 2018 and June 2020 over what drivers allege to be a pervasive issue with the panoramic sunroofs with which certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles are equipped. Mercedes, the case claims, has “systematically” denied covering panoramic sunroof repairs under warranty, leaving drivers to bear the expense.
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