Another putative class action has been filed against Volkswagen and Audi in a New Jersey federal court. The German carmakers and their American subsidiaries are accused of concealing information from consumers about a defect in certain models that “can result in catastrophic engine failure.” The suit claims that the automakers allegedly have known about a defect in the timing chain tensioning system in the engines of several models that can unexpectedly fail during normal use, endanger vehicle passengers and cost car purchasers thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Plaintiff Karl Molwitz, a Connecticut resident seeking to certify a nationwide and statewide class of car purchasers, claims that since at least 2007, the Defendants had knowledge of the defect but did not inform consumers that they should anticipate having to inspect or repair vehicle timing chains or associated parts on a regular basis.

The Molwitz suit closely resembles a class action filed in the same court in May. The alleged defect is present in numerous Volkswagen and Audi vehicles, including popular models like the Volkswagen Jetta, Tiguan, Passat and Audi A4 and TT. The complaint reads:

The class vehicles present a safety hazard and are unreasonably dangerous to consumers. If the timing chain tensioner fails while the vehicle is in operation, the vehicle could lose all forward propulsion resulting in a dangerous safety issue for occupants of the class vehicles and others on the road, and could even result in personal injury or death.

The named Plaintiff in the suit claims that the manufacturers had to know about the defect by way of:

  • pre-manufacturing research and testing;
  • complaints made to authorized dealers and directly to the manufacturers;
  • complaints made to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA); and
  • testing conducted in response to those complaints.

Even though the vehicle maintenance recommendations do not require inspection or replacement of the timing chain until at least 120,000 miles, it’s claimed that the defect can affect vehicles before they reach that mileage. In addition to presenting a safety hazard, the cost to repair the unexpected defect can be “exorbitant” because consumers may be required to prematurely repair or replace their engine and related components, according to the suit. The Plaintiff said:

Had plaintiff and the members of the putative class known about the timing chain defect at the time of purchase or lease, neither plaintiff nor members of the putative class would have purchased the class vehicles or would have paid less for them.

There are claims for breach of implied warranty, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, statutory fraud, common law fraud and unjust enrichment in the complaint. It should be noted that VW and Audi are not the only companies that have been accused of faulty tensioning systems. Similar suits have been brought against Nissan North America Inc. and BMW of North America LLC.

The Plaintiff in the instant case is represented by Matthew Mendelsohn of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman LLC and Payam Shahian of Strategic Legal Practices APC. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.


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