Volkswagen has failed to disclose to owners and lessees of 2015-2019 model year vehicles that a defect with the automaker’s Front Assist collision-prevention feature can cause sudden and unexpected braking or stalling without driver input, a lawsuit alleges.
The 85-page, 41-count proposed class action claims Volkswagen, despite possessing “longstanding knowledge” of the issue, has concealed the fact that the Front Assist, also called Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, feature can activate without warning and cause “sudden and unexpected slowing, sudden stopping and stalling events” that put drivers, passengers and pedestrians at risk.
“When the Front Assist Defect engages suddenly and without warning, it can leave the driver stranded in dangerous traffic situations or with a vehicle that has suddenly stopped and will not move,” the complaint, filed in Missouri federal court by 14 plaintiffs, says.
According to the complaint, defendants Volkswagen Group of America and Volkswagen AG tout the Front Assist feature as a sensor-reliant system that can help monitor traffic and will alert the driver acoustically and visually to a possible rear-end collision with the car ahead. If a VW senses that a front-end collision is imminent, the car’s autonomous emergency braking will step in and support the driver with increased brake pressure or, if the driver fails to react, apply the brakes automatically.
Another component of the Front Assist feature can warn a driver of pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and similarly brake automatically to potentially mitigate the outcome of a collision in case the driver doesn’t heed the vehicle’s warnings, the suit says.
As the lawsuit tells it, however, Volkswagen’s Front Assist feature, found in Atlas, Jetta, Touareg, Tiguan and Golf models, fails at its task of making affected vehicles safer to operate. According to the suit, Volkswagen has known since at least October 2017 that its Front Assist feature can engage suddenly and without warning, and kept the knowledge of the apparent defect from drivers.
Further, the complaint alleges Volkswagen has been “unable or unwilling” to repair affected vehicle models when the Front Assist defect manifests. The lawsuit says the automaker has often conveyed to drivers that affected vehicles that display the Front Assist defect “are operating as intended and therefore cannot be repaired under warranty or otherwise."
To date, Volkswagen has not recalled vehicles hampered by the Front Assist malfunction or offered customers any suitable reimbursement despite a wealth of durability testing data and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaints, the case says. The lawsuit contends that drivers would not have bought or leased their Volkswagen vehicles, or would have paid substantially less, had they known of the Front Assist problem.
Per the suit, Volkswagen has pledged that the Front Assist feature will be standard on nearly all vehicle models by 2022.
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