Attorney General Becerra Announces $1.5 Billion Settlement Against Daimler for Selling Cars that Cheated Emissions Test

Monday, September 14, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced a $1.5 billion settlement against Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively, “Daimler”) for undisclosed emission control devices on its diesel Sprinter vans and passenger vehicles from model years 2009 through 2016. As part of the settlement, California will receive about $300 million, including $17.5 million to the California Department of Justice for future environmental enforcement, monitoring, and investigation, as well as to support environmentally-beneficial projects in California.

“Longterm, if you cheat, you're going to get caught. Daimler is finding that out today. But they’re not the first — nor likely the last — to try,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The climate crisis is upon us. All of us must do our part to tackle it. If you pollute more than others, then you must do more than others. Installing defeat device software on your vehicles to deceive emissions regulators doesn’t qualify as doing more. It just means you’ll pay more in penalties once we catch you. And we will, because cheaters really aren’t as smart as they think.” 

The settlement resolves allegations that Daimler violated environmental and civil laws by using defeat device software to circumvent emissions testing. This software enables vehicles’ emissions controls to perform more effectively when being run through EPA and CARB test cycles than in real world driving conditions. Daimler is alleged to have sold about 250,000 passenger cars and vans in the United States with diesel engines that did not comply with state and federal laws and regulations governing vehicle emissions and certifications. Of those, approximately 36,946 non-compliant vehicles were sold in California, emitting excess NOx, a smog-forming pollution that exacerbates asthma and other health problems. As part of the settlement, Daimler will be required to pay civil penalties, fix the vehicles, and mitigate excess NOx emissions. The estimated total cost of the settlement is approximately $1.5 billion.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to holding corporate polluters accountable. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra and CARB secured $78.4 million for California, and additional relief for California consumers, from Fiat Chrysler as part of  $500 million settlement resolving allegations that the company used “defeat devices” to cheat vehicle emissions tests. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra, along with the City and County of Los Angeles, secured a $119.5 million settlement with the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) over the unprecedented natural gas leak from a ruptured well at its Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. That same year, Attorney General Becerra announced a $102 million settlement with BP Energy Company and affiliates over allegations that it intentionally overcharged the State of California for natural gas that the State purchased under three successive contracts from March 2003 to August 2012. In 2017, Attorney General Becerra and CARB announced a $66 million partial settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on its diesel-emissions tests. That was one in a series of partial settlements that in total provided approximately $1.5 billion in relief to California for Volkswagen’s misconduct.

The consent decree was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

A copy of the consent decree can be found here.

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