Mini Cooper CVT issues cited in lawsuit

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Mini Cooper

A class action lawsuit has been filed in Florida over Mini Cooper CVT issues, the second such suit in the past year. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A lawsuit has been filed against Mini, for allegedly violating the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act of that state. The lawsuit alleges that corners were cut in making the MiniCooper CVT, the continuously-variable transmission, which some owners claim is hopelessly unreliable.

Second such MiniCooper CVT lawsuit

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mini has been named in lawsuit in Florida. The plaintiffs claim that Mini ostensibly sold cars that weren’t up to snuff, especially in regard to the transmission. The models in question include 2002 to 2006 standard MiniCoopers and the 2005 to 2008 MiniCooper convertibles equipped with Mini’s continuously-variable transmission.

Owners filing the suit are claiming that Mini, and by extension parent company BMW, cut corners in manufacturing the MiniCooper CVT and, tacitly or deliberately, sold a defective product. The suit claims that this constitutes a violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. According to AutoBlog, it is the second suit concerning the MiniCooper CVT.

First suit brought last year in California

The first lawsuit dealing with CVT problems in MiniCoopers was filed in California in September 2011. In that suit, which is a class action just as the Florida suit is, it was claimed that Mini knowingly put out a substandard continuously-variable transmission, which led to a number of premature transmission failures in the first generation of MiniCoopers sold in the U.S. This led to a number of owners having to replace the transmission completely, often at a cost of thousands of dollars.

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Baron and Budd, the law firm that filed the suit on behalf of Brad Aarons and other plaintiffs, says on its website that “demand…outgrew supply” leading Mini to “churn out a substandard product” to meet it. The firm is fairly well-known, having won a large suit in 2011 against Bank of America for excessive checking overdraft fees. The Wall Street Journal, AutoBlog and other sites point out a number of complaints wind up in automotive forums, decrying MiniCooper CVT performance for those model years.

Teething problems for CVT

Continuously-variable transmissions are not exactly new technology, but they haven’t been widely implemented for a long time for several reasons. According to HowStuffWorks, the first CVT was actually designed by Leonardo da Vinci, but the first patent for a CVT wasn’t granted until 1886. Implementation after that was sporadic in cars, but widespread in other machinery including motorcycles and snowmobiles.

According to AutoGuide, CVTs are technically in their infancy, as far as widespread use in modern cars is concerned. In theory, they should be the most reliable, as the continually-shifting gear ratios optimize efficiency and fuel economy, but in practice, it hasn’t always been that way. In economy cars, such as the Toyota Prius, they have been brilliant. However, in others, not so much; aside from the problems observed by owners in MiniCoopers, owners of the CVT-equipped Nissan Murano similarly had transmission issues. Nissan has since extended the power train warranty on its CVT to 10 years or 120,000 miles.

Sources

Wall Street Journal

AutoBlog

AutoGuide

HowStuffWorks: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/cvt.htm

Baron and Budd: http://baronandbudd.com/areas-of-practice/class-actions/bmw-mini-cooper-lawsuit/

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