A putative class action filed in 2018 alleges Audi Q7 vehicles for model years 2015 to 2018 have defective braking systems. The lawsuit, filed against Audi of America, LLC and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., d/b/a Audi of America, Inc. (collectively, “Audi”), alleges the brake issue results in a high-pitched noise when the brakes are used.
The named plaintiffs, Valeria Mercado and Andrea Kristy Anne Holmes, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, filed a Third Amended Complaint in December 2019 against Defendant Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., d/b/a Audi of America, Inc. (“Audi”), alleging Audi Q7 vehicles for model years 2015-2018 have defective braking systems, which result in a high-pitched noise when the brakes are used. Plaintiffs alleged the noise occurs when the brakes are used while a vehicle is travelling at a range of speeds and in a variety of driving conditions. Audi filed a partial motion to dismiss certain claims in that complaint. After briefing on the motion, the District Court held a hearing on March 2, 2020. The Court granted Audi’s motion to dismiss the claims for negligence, product liability; and violation of the Song-Beverly Warranty Act as advanced by Holmes. The Court denied Audi’s motion to dismiss claims for violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and California’s Unfair Competition Law.
Plaintiffs subsequently filed a fourth amended class action complaint in May 2020, in response to which Audi failed a Motion for Partial Dismissal. Plaintiff filed a notice they did not oppose Defendant’s motion, leaving the following remaining claims:
- Plaintiff Holmes’s claims against Defendant, individually and on behalf of a Class and sub-Class of all other similarly situated California purchasers of the Vehicles, for violations of the CLRA and UCL, based on unlawful and unfair conduct, and failure to disclose.
- Plaintiff Mercado’s claims against Defendant, individually and on behalf of a Class and sub-Class of all other similarly situated California purchasers of the Vehicles, for violations of California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
They allege Audi has long known about the brake noise issue through reports from dealerships, testing and warranty data, complaint data, and sales of replacement parts, but has not disclosed this defect. As noted in the complaint, “As evidenced by the complaints of Plaintiffs and other Vehicle owners that have been received by the National Highway Safety Administration (’NHTSA’), the Vehicles’ squealing manifests at different mileages and under different conditions, including in both driving conditions, including in both reverse and forward and at different speeds.” Specifically, as set forth in the complaint, the named Plaintiffs allegedly experienced the following with their class vehicles:
Valeria Mercado leased a 2017 Audi Q7. Subsequently, the brakes “began emitting an extremely loud squealing noise when applied,” even though the vehicle was only about five months old. The squealing noise could be heard even with all of the windows closed and music playing in the vehicle. The noise was “extremely alarming” to Ms. Mercado, which created an unsafe distraction, and was so loud that it had a high potential of distracting other drivers in the vicinity.
The noise also impacted Ms. Mercado’s driving decisions, such as altering her use of her brakes in anticipation of the noise and in fear that it was symptomatic of a safety issue affecting the performance and reliability of the braking system.
Ms. Mercado informed Audi Ontario of the brake noise and brought it in multiple times for service. Audi Ontario stated to Ms. Mercado that all 2017 Audi Q7 vehicles are too heavy for the brakes installed during manufacturing, resulting in the loud squealing noise when the brakes were applied. On other occasions, Audi Ontario stated the cause of the brake defect was unknown. When Ms. Mercado called Audi USA about the brake defect, it referred Ms. Mercado back to Audi Ontario. In November 2018, Audi Ontario informed Ms. Mercado that the parts required to resolve the defect were on “back order” as a result of the large number of vehicles experiencing the brake defect. Twelve days after filing her lawsuit, Audi Ontario performed a repair for a condition consistent with a Technical Service Bulletin issued on October 13, 2015. However, since the attempted repair, the defect again manifested in the vehicle.
Andrea Holmes purchased a 2017 Audi Q7. In or about December 2017, the brakes began emitting an extremely loud squealing noise when she drove in reverse. The noise was very loud and could be heard even with all of the windows closed and music playing in the vehicle. It was alarming to Ms. Holmes while driving, creating an unsafe distraction and potentially distracting other drivers in the vicinity. She took her vehicle in to Audi San Diego and was first told the noise was “normal” and could not be fixed. Her husband, an “auto industry entrepreneur and executive for more than 20 years—immediately utilized his relationships inside Audi to facilitate a solution to the Brake Defect, including by speaking with an Audi Customer Advocate.” On further inquiry, Audi San Diego admitted Audi knew of the issue and was working on a fix, and informed her the likely repair date would be in May 2018. In or around May 2018, Audi San Diego replaced the brakes on Ms. Holmes’s vehicle, which resolved the brake issue for approximately four months.
However, in or around September 2018, the brakes again begin emitting a loud squealing noise. Upon inspection, Audi San Diego denied the brakes were making any noise; informed her that they slammed the brakes three times with maximum force and the problem was fixed; and suggested she attempt to fix the noise in the same manner if it returned. She returned again, and Audi San Diego said no one else had complained about noise emitting from the brake of an Audi Q7. She reminded them that she had previously had her brakes replaced as a result of this issue and believed there were other similar complaints; as a result, Audi San Diego agreed to address the issue, arranged for an Audi engineer to look at the problem, and ultimately replaced the rotors on the vehicle.
This repair eliminated the noise for about 24 hours; she returned to the dealership with a video recording of the extremely loud brake noise. Audi San Diego kept the vehicle for about a week and said it could not recreate the noise, and instructed her to pick up the vehicle. Although the brakes again emitted an extremely loud noise, Audi San Diego informed Ms. Holmes that nothing further could be done to address the defect, which has since gotten worse. As Ms. Holmes is a real estate agent who uses her vehicle for work, including transporting and driving near her clients, she has experienced embarrassment and damage to her professional reputation due to the defect and cannot safely use it for its intended purpose.
The lawsuit seeks remedies including damages, an order enjoining Defendant from continuing the alleged unlawful practices and ordering Defendant to engage in a corrective recall campaign, and attorneys’ fees.
The case is Valeria Mercado v. Audi of America, LLC, et al, No. 5:18-cv-02388, in the District Court for the Central District of California.