Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group of America are among the latest automakers to be hit with proposed class actions after certain “telematic” vehicle features were rendered wholly or partially inoperable when the major wireless carriers phased out their 3G networks in early 2022.
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The 20-page case against Ford, filed November 3 in California, says the internet-enabled MyFord and MyLincoln features in the 2014-2020 Fusion Energi, 2014-2017 C-MAX Energi, 2016-2018 Focus Electric, 2016-2017 MKZ/MKZ Hybrid, 2015-2017 MKC, 2017 Continental and 2016-2017 MKX were rendered inoperable after AT&T’s 3G phaseout in February of this year. According to the suit, the automaker’s warranty manual “makes no mention of the fact that Ford installed an inferior 3G modem in [each] vehicle.”
The 25-page complaint against Volkswagen rings similar, alleging the 2014-2019 Passat, Jetta, Tiguan and Beetle; 2014-2017 EOS; 2018-2019 Atlas; 2018-2019 Arteon; 2014-2019 GolfR, GolfD, Golf and eGolf; 2014-2019 GTI; 2014-2019 Golf SportWagen; and 2014-2018 CC are equipped with inferior telematics rendered obsolete by this year’s 3G phaseout. Per the lawsuit, Volkswagen did not disclose, or even suggest, that its Car-Net telematic systems in the foregoing vehicles would be “rendered obsolete” once 3G networks were phased out, or that the features were only temporary or had a limited lifespan. Even for later model years, after 4G became prevalent, Volkswagen did not disclose to the public that its equipment was one generation behind the standard, the case claims.
According to the case against Ford, the affected vehicles’ MyFord mobile app allows a driver to start, lock, unlock and locate their vehicle remotely, as well as connect the individual with a parking locator, roadside assistance, dealer locations and Ford Support. For plug-in hybrids, the MyFord app allows a vehicle owner to check its battery charge level and total range, and to schedule when the battery will charge in order to take advantage of when electricity prices are at their lowest, the lawsuit relays. The suit adds that insurance carriers offer vehicle owners “preferential rates” given the importance of the internet-enabled theft and safety features.
The filing says that despite the inevitability that AT&T, with whom Ford contracted to provide 3G access, would decommission its 3G network to make way for upgraded technologies, Ford continued to manufacture the vehicles at issue with a 3G modem.
Accordingly, Ford “knew or should have known” when it made the vehicles that AT&T would eventually decommission its 3G network before the end of the usable life of the cars and their driver-assist features, the case alleges. The plaintiff, an Alpine, California resident, alleges Ford breached its warranties by refusing to cover 4G upgrades or otherwise pay for the costs associated with repairing drivers’ 3G modems.
Volkswagen’s Car-Net feature is similar to MyFord in that the 3G-only telematic system offers drivers roadside emergency assistance, remote lock and unlock, vehicle health and fuel status, stolen vehicle location, and speed alerts, among other features. The filing against the automaker alleges that Volkswagen “refused and failed” to make the 3G telematics in affected vehicle models adaptable to the next generation of wireless technology, although it could have done so.
Even after designing and installing its 3G-only telematics, Volkswagen could have provided a technological “fix,” though “[i]t would have been costly,” or the automaker “could have planned in advance by recalling cars and installing upgrades to add 4G and/or 5G capabilities,” the suit says.
“The Class Vehicles were factory equipped with 3G only telematics devices but by 2014 3G was already being replaced by 4G LTE,” the case against VW summarizes, alleging the company could have but chose not to design, build or install the Car-Net features with downloadable software or physical spare parts to allow the devices to be upgraded.
The plaintiff in the case against Ford claims that around June 2022, he noticed his MyFord mobile app was not working with his 2020 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. Per the suit, the man was unable to remote start his vehicle, check whether the car was charging, or schedule when his plugged-in vehicle would charge. After calling Ford, the plaintiff learned that his vehicle’s modem was no longer functional, and was directed to take his car to an authorized dealer to address the issue. Upon doing so, the driver was also told that his vehicle’s anti-theft system would also no longer function, the suit relays.
The cost to upgrade the 3G modem in the plaintiff’s vehicle to a 4G modem was more than $1,000, the filing states. To date, affected Ford drivers have not obtained an adequate repair for the 3G modem in their vehicles, the suit says. Although Ford rolled out a customer satisfaction program through which drivers within the “complimentary trial period” of their mobile app could buy the 4G modem upgrade and Ford would cover installation costs, the program is no longer available, regardless of whether a driver is within the free trial period of their mobile app, according to the case.
“In fact, the Customer Satisfaction Program expired May 31, 2022, meaning Ford would cover no cost associated with the 4G upgrade initiated after that date,” the lawsuit reads.
According to the case against Volkswagen, the automaker's solution for vehicle owners and lessees with outdated 3G telematics was to offer a "special price" of $295 for "Motion by Mojio," a driver-assist app that requires a buyer to pay additional subscription fees.
The cases look to cover owners and lessees of the Ford, Lincoln and Volkswagen vehicle models highlighted on this page.
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