By Nick Carey
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co installed software that enabled its F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks to cheat at passing federal emissions tests, according to a lawsuit by truck owners filed on Wednesday, a claim the No. 2 U.S. automaker described as "baseless."
Ford manipulated the emissions system in violation of federal requirements and the affected trucks released twice the legal limits of emissions during normal driving, the lawsuit claimed. An emission-cheating scandal that came to light in 2015 cost German automaker Volkswagen tens of billions of dollars in settlements and fines.
Ford said in a statement that all of its vehicles comply with all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board emissions regulations.
"Ford vehicles do not have defeat devices," the company said. "We will defend ourselves against these baseless claims."
The law firm representing the owners, Hagens Berman, has launched lawsuits in the last year against General Motors Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV as well as engine maker Cummins Inc, making similar allegations.
In the tests Ford conducted on the F-250 and F-350 vehicles, "emissions are routinely as high as five times the standard," the lawsuit said, quipping that the trucks should bear the moniker "Super Dirty."
Erik Gordon, an expert in entrepreneurship and technology at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, said that if true, the "allegations would expose Ford to the risk of billion-dollar liabilities and punch a hole in its attempts to position itself as a vehicle technology leader."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, also named German auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL] as a defendant.
In a statement Wednesday, Bosch said allegations against the company "remain the subject of investigations and civil litigation" and it takes allegations of diesel software manipulation "very seriously."
Last year, Bosch agreed to pay $327.5 million to U.S. owners of Volkswagen AG vehicles for its part in installing illegal emissions-cheating software.
More recently, German prosecutors investigating whether carmaker Daimler AG manipulated emission tests on its diesel cars have looked at whether Bosch was involved.
Volkswagen has struggled to draw a line under its diesel emissions scandal, which broke in the United States in 2015 and has cost the German company as much as $30 billion.
An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the lawsuit against Ford.
Ford shares closed down 0.4 percent at $13.03.
(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Savio D'Souza and David Gregorio)