A Mercedes-Benz Mars Red paint defect lawsuit alleges the clear coat is prone to peeling, bubbling and flaking in models built between 2004 and 2017.
Mars Red, also known as Fire Opal, is a paint manufactured by PPG Industries that identifies the color by paint code 905264, while Mercedes identifies the color by paint code 590.
Vehicles included in the proposed class-action lawsuit include any Mercedes-Benz vehicle with a label on the driver-side door jamb that references Mars Red paint code 590.
The lawsuit alleges Mercedes knew the paint was prone to peel and bubble but continued to paint vehicles with the PPG product.
The plaintiffs, Robert Ponzio, Karina Kloczko, Jessica Irene Miller, Thomas Hayes, Alex Acuna, Brian Madsen, Vanessa M. Montgomery, Robert Mull, Hadiya Nelthrope and Samuel Salgado, all claim they have lost money or vehicle value because of the defective Mars Red paint.
Once the paint starts peeling, flaking and bubbling, the vehicles are exposed to rust and corrosion that not only makes the vehicles look lousy, but require owners to spend great sums of money on repairs. The plaintiffs claim they expected the red paint to last at least 10 years, but their hopes were dashed because Mercedes allegedly concealed the defects.
Plaintiff Robert Ponzio purchased a new 2013 Mercedes-Benz Mars Red SL 550 in June 2013 and said his buying decision was based on the red color of the vehicle.
Ponzio claims he specifically asked the dealer sales rep about alleged problems with Mars Red paint and was told there had previously been a problem with the paint but that it had since been fixed.
Within a year, the plaintiff allegedly noticed the clear coat on the hood was peeling and later spread to other parts of the vehicle. In May 2018, the plaintiff claims he took the vehicle to a dealer and was told it needed a new paint job.
However, technicians said they would have to reach out to Mercedes-Benz’s corporate office to explore his options because the vehicle was out of warranty.
While at the dealership, the plaintiff says he was told that many Mars Red vehicles had come into the dealership with the same paint problems, but the value of his vehicle would not diminish as a result of the repainting because the repainting would not show up on CarFax.com.
Ponzio claims he has followed up with the dealer but still has not heard from anyone about his repainting options.
Another plaintiff, Karina Kloczko, purchased a new 2014 Mars Red C350. In June 2017, she noticed the clear coat was bubbling, peeling and/or flaking. She claims a dealer told her the paint was defective, but it would take at least six months to repaint the vehicle because of the number of other Mercedes vehicles needing new paint jobs.
She then took the C350 to a repair facility where the vehicle was repainted at a cost of $10,000 paid by Kloczko's insurance company. It also allegedly took about a month of her going without her vehicle while waiting for it to be painted.
The plaintiff says she brought her vehicle to CarMax to get it appraised. CarMax significantly reduced the value because of “Prior Paintwork” and/or “Needs Paintwork” on multiple parts of her vehicle.
That same day, the plaintiff says she visited autotrader.com for an appraisal and received a significantly reduced “Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer” that categorized the repainting of the various parts as “Serious Conditions.”
According to the lawsuit, Mercedes makes a big deal out of the paint jobs used for its vehicles.
“Scratch Resistant Clearcoat (SRC) uses ‘nano-paint technology’ [composed] of microscopic ceramic particles that make it extremely durable and remarkably protective of the color coat beneath. This is particularly beneficial in protecting against swirl marks, minor scratches and even many chemical contaminants.”
However, the plaintiffs allege degradation of the coatings can be caused by defective materials used for Mars Red paint or caused by improper application to the vehicles, resulting in accelerated degradation between the clear coat and basecoat. The paint will lose adhesion and start peeling, which is what the plaintiffs allege occurs to the red paint.
According to the plaintiffs, the proof Mercedes knew about the paint defect can be found in technical service bulletins (TSBs) issued to dealerships. In addition, Mercedes allegedly knew about the paint problems due to customer complaints filed with the automaker and with sites such as CarComplaints.com.
“After a couple days [I noticed] problems on the truck with the discoloration under the clear coat. Had it [checked] out to be sure the car had not been repainted. Took [it] to two collision centers, who confirmed that the problem was a factory/paint defect. Mercedes position is that my warranty has expired and although there are no recalls, other vehicles which are the Mars red color have been repainted by Mercedes because of a factory defect and my vehicle was purchased five months after the warranty expired will not be covered totally or partially for a repaint at all by Mercedes USA.”
The plaintiffs claim Mercedes sent dealers multiple service bulletins because of red paint peeling, flaking and bubbling, with the first TSB issued before 2014 for all vehicles with Mars Red paint. The bulletin (LI98.00-P-058914) was updated in June 2014 because the “[e]xterior clear coat finish is peeling, flaking or exhibits bubbles under the surface.”
According to the TSB, the cause of the paint problem was the “[i]mproper adhesion of clear coat” and dealers were instructed to “use damage code 98091L6” and “[r]efinish affected areas according to WIS and approved paint manufacturer instructions.”
The technical service bulletin also provided dealers with certain symptoms that may be noticed: “Overall vehicle / Paint/corrosion / Paintwork Fault / Poor Adhesion” and “Overall vehicle / Paint/corrosion / Paint damage / Swelling.”
According to the lawsuit, Mercedes dealers have been issued numerous "versions" of Mars Red paint TSB LI98.00-P-058914. On Feb. 3, 2017, Mercedes issued version 8 of the bulletin to update the damage code to 98292 01 that said dealers were to perform certain duties if the repair job was more than 30 hours in labor.
The plaintiffs say such a large job shows that Daimler/Mercedes-Benz was fully aware of the serious nature of the Mars Red defects.
The Mercedes-Benz Mars Red paint defect lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey - Robert Ponzio, et al., v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC and Daimler AG.
The plaintiffs are represented by Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, P.C., Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, and Gordon & Doner, P.A.