Kyla Asbury Aug. 28, 2014, 10:34am

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A lawsuit has been filed against Mazda Motors of America Inc. by class members who claim its vehicles' engines are equipped with a defective continuous variable valve timing assembly.

James Stevenson claims Mazda unfairly and unlawfully practiced assembling, manufacturing, marketing and warranting Mazda vehicles utilizing an engine equipped with a defective continuous VVT assembly and, as part of the purchase and leasing process, Mazda has consistently advertised and warranted that new Mazda vehicles will be free from defects, according to a complaint filed Aug. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

"Contrary to Mazda’s advertisements and warranties, Mazda’s application of VVT technology in its engines is a failure in one critical respect: the Mazda VVT assembly is defective at the point of sale and has a propensity to fail prematurely," the complaint states. "The defective Mazda vehicles at issue...suffer from a defect that causes the engine’s timing chain to loosen or detach."

Consequences of this defect include partial and total failure of the engine, according to the suit.

Stevenson claims although this defect is covered under Mazda’s powertrain warranty, Mazda fails to repair the defect under warranty.

"Mazda has had actual knowledge about the VVT assembly defect since at least 2007," the complaint states. "Unfortunately, as part of the purchase process, Mazda has concealed material facts regarding the defect from purchasers and lessors of vehicles equipped with a defective VVT assembly."

When owners of the defective vehicles present their vehicles for repair or replacement of the Mazda VVT System and resulting engine damage, Mazda’s practice is to deny warranty claims by alleging that the owners failed to provide proof satisfactory to Mazda of engine oil changes at a frequency satisfactory to Mazda, or by applying Mazda’s subjective interpretation of engine condition and presumed inadequate maintenance at the time that warranty service is sought, according to the suit.

Stevenson claims Mazda’s fraudulent and unlawful conduct has resulted in substantial harm to him and the class.

"As a result of the defect, plaintiff and the class have not received the economic benefit of their bargain, overpaid for their vehicles and/or made lease payments that were too high, and suffered further damages by incurring out-of-pocket costs associated with repairing the VVT assembly defect in their vehicles," the complaint states.

The Mazda vehicles include 2006-2010 Mazda CX-7, 2006-2010 Mazdaspeed 3, 2005-2007 Mazdaspeed 6, 2003-2008 Mazda 6, 2004-2007 Mazda 3, 2006-2007 Mazda 5 and 2006-2007 Mx-5, according to the suit.

Stevenson claims Mazda kept owners in the dark about the problem, even after the original repair parts were also found to be inadequate.

Repairs typically cost "hundreds of dollars" and three hours of labor, while some owners were forced to pay upward of $8,000 for engine replacements, the suit alleges.

Stevenson claims he bought a new 2008 Mazda CX-7 that was equipped with the engine at issue and received a letter in January 2012 informing him that the warranty on the troublesome components would be extended to seven years or 70,000 miles, whichever came first.

In November 2013, at less than 64,000 miles, Stevenson's engine failed, and Mazda declined warranty coverage. Stevenson incurred repair and rental car costs of about $4,300, he claims.

Mazda violated of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and common-law counts of breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty and fraudulent concealment, according to the suit.

Stevenson is seeking class certification, compensatory damages and punitive damages. He is being represented by Mitchell M. Breit of Simmons Hanly Conroy.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Freda L. Wolfson.

U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey: 3:14-cv-05250

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