A New Jersey driver has filed proposed class actions against BMW and Porsche over the automakers’ alleged failure to disclose that the internet-enabled Porsche Connect and Connected Drive/BMW Assist features in certain vehicles were “destined for obsolescence” and would be rendered inoperable after 3G service was phased out nationwide this year.
The 28-page suit against Porsche says that the automaker’s representations about the Porsche Connect feature in 2014-2019 vehicle models were false and misleading given the company failed to disclose until 2022 that the “telematics” in the cars had been built and installed with 3G-only capabilities, meaning they would not function as 4G and 5G networks were phased in. Per the case, Porsche has stated publicly that “some vehicles” may be eligible for a “technology upgrade” but has offered little details on the timing, nature or cost of any such upgrades.
Similarly, the complaint against BMW claims the automaker did not disclose until April 2021 that the Connected Drive/BMW Assist “telematics” found in vehicles dating back to the 2013 model year had been built and installed to work only with the now-sunsetting 3G network and “could not be transitioned over to any more advanced technology.”
Each complaint cites a January 2022 Consumer Reports article that stresses that the shutdown of 3G networks meant millions of cars with driver assist features would lose their ability to automatically contact first responders after a crash. Although some vehicles’ hardware or software could be updated, millions more would be losing their connections permanently, Consumer Reports stated.
Consumer Reports highlighted that even though automakers knew 3G networks would shut down permanently between February and July of this year, many still relied on 3G as recently as their 2021 model year vehicles, in particular for cost savings.
According to the filing, all car manufacturers, including BMW and Porsche, “have long known that 3G was ‘spectrally inefficient’ and would be phased out as early as possible.”
The lawsuits allege neither BMW nor Porsche disclosed or suggested that their respective driver assist features would be rendered obsolete once 3G was phased out, and that as a result each system would essentially have only a temporary or limited lifespan. The suit against Porsche says that for later model years after 4G became prevalent, the company never disclosed that its equipment was “one generation behind,” and instead marketed Porsche Connect as a permanent feature of the vehicle models at issue.
Likewise, BMW allegedly never informed drivers that its Connected Drive/BMW Assist feature was only temporary in light of the sunsetting of 3G networks.
Each complaint claims the defendants could have but chose not to design the telematics in the vehicle models at issue with downloadable software or physical spare parts that would keep the devices operable once 3G networks were no more.
Even after the 3G-only telematics were designed and installed, a technology “fix” for the 3G phaseout was “not impossible or even difficult,” the lawsuits say. It would have been expensive, the suits stress, but it could have been done by BMW and Porsche, or planned in advance by recalling cars and installing upgraded 4G- or 5G-capable systems, the cases contend.
According to the cases, the plaintiff owns a 2014 BMW xDrive Coupe and 2018 Porsche Panamera 4S. The man alleges he and similarly situated BMW and Porsche drivers have been deprived of the benefit of their bargain and paid for cars under the mistaken belief that their driver-assist systems would work for the life of the vehicle.
The BMW case looks to cover all persons who bought or leased, anywhere in the United States, a 2013-present BMW vehicle with a Connected Drive/BMW Assist with 3G-only limitations.
The Porsche suit looks to represent all persons who bought or leased, anywhere in the United States, a 2017-2019 911, 2015-2019 Cayenne, 2017-2018 Macan, 2017-2021 718, 2014-2018 Panamera, or 2014 918 Spyder with Porsche Connect with 3G-only limitations.
According to the complaints, there are 14 million BMW vehicles equipped with the telematics at issue, and potentially more than 300,000 Porsche drivers whose vehicles may be equipped with inoperable telematics.
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