2014 Subaru Forester
2014 Subaru Forester ()

A class action suit filed in Camden, N.J., federal court says Subaru cars have an engine defect that causes them to burn excessive amounts of oil.

According to the suit, class vehicles burn a quart of oil every 1,200 miles. Defendants Subaru of America and its parent, Fuji Heavy Industries, are well aware of the defect but failed to warn customers about the problem or provide any adequate remedy, according to the suit.

The defect is a safety hazard because it can cause engine failure while the subject vehicles are operating, according to the suit, Yaeger v. Subaru of America, 14-cv-4490.

The problem is caused by piston rings that wear out prematurely in 2011-2014 Forester 2.5L, 2013 Legacy 2.5L, 2013 Outback 2.5L, 2012-2013 Impreza 2.0L and 2013 XV Crosstrek 2.0L, according to the suit.

Subaru of America, whose headquarters is in Cherry Hill, N.J., has issued technical service bulletins to dealers that recommend replacement of piston rings in cars that consume excessive oil, the suit says. That job requires the removal of the entire engine from the vehicle and entails 11-13 hours of labor, and class members have paid or been quoted prices in excess of $8,000 to perform that job, the suit says.

But the repair recommended in the technical service bulletin doesn’t adequately address the problem, the lawyer who filed the complaint, Matthew Schelkopf of Chimicles & Tikellis of Haverford, Pa., said.

“We feel we’ve identified the issue and we know what the necessary repair is and we don’t feel it’s addressed in the TSB,” Schelkopf said. He declined to say what measure he believes will fix the defect.

The complaint cites numerous postings about the Subaru engine defects on online message boards and details 11 complaints about the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In one such NHTSA complaint, according to the filing, the unidentified owner said, “I bought my 2013 Subaru Impreza and with approximately 10,000 miles I got a low oil light on. I found out my Subaru burns a quart of oil every 2,500-3,000 miles. That is unacceptable for a brand new car. Subaru is selling a lemon.”

Class representative Keith Yaeger of Escondido, Calif., claims his 2014 Forester began consuming excessive oil when it had 6,000 miles on the odometer, according to the complaint.

The dealership replaced the piston rings on his engine but the oil consumption problem was not resolved, the suit says.

The other class representative, Michael Schuler of Lakeland, Fla., claims his 2013 Outback had 2,200 miles on the odometer when the low oil warning light illuminated. He began adding oil to the car regularly to prevent engine failure, the suit says. His dealership told him the car’s oil consumption was normal, prompting him to trade in the car at a loss for another make of vehicle, according to the complaint.

The suit seeks certification of a nationwide class of owners of the class vehicles, as well as subclasses for owners in California, Florida and New Jersey. The suit claims violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act as well as consumer protection laws from California and Florida, as well as violation of the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act and breach of warranty.

The complaint seeks injunctive or declaratory relief, including an order requiring the defendants to repair, recall and/or replace the class vehicles and to extend their warranties. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Subaru of America spokesman Michael McHale said the company is aware of the suit, and added that, “while we believe the oil consumption of our vehicles to be within acceptable levels, we continually work to reduce the amount of consumable goods, such as oil, that our vehicles require to operate.”

Contact the reporter at ctoutant@alm.com.