Volvo's hybrid engine doesn't go far enough on battery alone, XC90 buyer says in class action

By Scott Holland | Apr 22, 2016

Volvo is facing a class action complaint over the performance of its hybrid sport utility vehicles.

Xavier Laurens, who waited eight months to take delivery on the twin-engine gas-electric Volvo XC90 T8 he ordered from a Chicago dealer in June 2015, filed his complaint April 21 in federal court in Chicago, arguing the vehicle drastically underperformed the advertised 25-mile range on a full battery charge.

Volvo XC90  

Laurens said he paid $83,000 for the T8, which he alleged only gave him eight to 10 miles on a full charge.

“And while Volvo now apparently claims that the range on the T8 is 17 miles,” the complaint states, “the only apparent method to even come close to the 17-mile range is to drive the T8 at 40 miles an hour on the highway — with all the safety features disabled.”

The promoted appeal of the T8 is the plug-in electric only engine, which Volvo advertised as having enough range, on a single charge, for the mileage most people drive in a single day, the complaint said.

Laurens alleged that reduced performance means he uses more gasoline than he expected when he drives the vehicle, cutting into the savings he said he expected to obtain by spending more on a hybrid. The Volvo XC90 T6, which like the T8 also seats seven, does not have an electric motor and starts at $49,800 compared to the $68,100 for a base model T8, the complaint said. With all the other features identical, Laurens claims customers pay an $18,300 premium for the hybrid.

Laurens’ complaint cited heavily from Volvo’s press materials leading up to the T8’s launch after the company introduced the car at the October 2014 Paris Motor Show. The advertised electric-only range vacillated from 17 miles to more than 26 miles, the complaint said. The complaint also referenced a brochure branding the XC90 as “the safest, most advanced production care we have ever made; the most powerful and the most efficient.”

Laurens asserted part of his purchase included a $700 electric charging station; he said he paid electricians $2,000 to install the station in his garage. He said his dealer, Howard Orloff Volvo, “was only able to achieve between 14-18 miles with the electric battery while driving the car on the highway, at no more than 40 mph, with all of the safety features, and the heat, turned off. Under normal driving conditions, the dealer was only able to obtain a 10-mile electric range.”

Laurens said he sought a refund of the differential between the T6 and T8 from Volvo, which refused. He argued he is “entitled to either a refund for the entire purchase price, or damages for the amount of the diminished value of the T8.”

Laurens’ complain alleged perhaps hundreds or even thousands of others who bought the vehicle in the U.S. would be qualified to join his lawsuit as members of a class of additional plaintiffs. The class would include anyone who bought or a leased a Volvo T8 in the U.S. In addition to class certification, Laurens requested a jury trial.

Formal allegations in the complaint included counts of violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, common law fraud, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment. Laurens requested compensatory and actual damages, including restitution and disgorgement of Volvo’s revenue, an injunction forcing Volvo to stop promoting the alleged unattainable mileage performance, as well as attorney fees.

Representing Laurens in the matter, and serving as putative class attorneys, are Joseph J. Siprut, Todd L. McLawhorn and John S. Marrese, of Siprut PC, Chicago.

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