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Bus maker says settlement near in ART suit

Bus maker BYD says in new court documents that it is close to settling the lawsuit the city of Albuquerque filed against it last year over these electric buses. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The Chinese company accused of providing faulty buses for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system says it is nearing a settlement in the resulting lawsuit filed by the city of Albuquerque, according to court records.

BYD Motors recently asked a federal judge for more time to file a formal response to the city’s suit, citing progress in ongoing settlement discussions. The city did not oppose the motion, which Judge Robert Brack granted.

“The parties are now close to resolving this matter, and believe they can do so without continued litigation,” BYD Motors’ attorney Ross Crown wrote in a motion filed April 5 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. “The parties also believe that the prospects for a settlement would be enhanced if BYD is not required to respond to the complaint while the current settlement discussions continue.”

Crown did not respond to Journal messages Wednesday.

A city spokeswoman confirmed continued discussions with BYD but did not provide details.

“Because we are involved in litigation on this issue, we can’t get into specifics,” Jessie Damazyn said in an emailed statement to the Journal. “But we can confirm that settlement conversations are ongoing.”

The city originally planned to start Albuquerque Rapid Transit service along Central Avenue in late 2017, but bus delays have pushed the expected launch to mid-2020.

In suing BYD last December, the city alleged breach of warranties, breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and more. It seeks damages and attorneys’ fees.

The suit claims BYD had failed to meet the scheduled deadline for providing the 60-foot articulated electric buses and that the vehicles it ultimately delivered were unsafe, had defects such as cracked frames and improperly installed wiring, and did not meet the represented miles-per-charge standard.

The city last November rejected the 15 buses, and BYD took them back.

The city originally filed suit in state District Court in Albuquerque, but BYD had the case moved to federal court in January.

The parties attended a mediation in Denver in February with a former U.S. Magistrate Judge, BYD’s latest motion states.

“Although the parties did not reach a settlement at the mediation, they have continued to engage in productive settlement discussions,” it reads.

In an effort to salvage the ART project – which created miles of bus-only lanes down the middle of Central – Albuquerque has ordered 18 “clean diesel” buses from a different manufacturer, New Flyer of America.

Transit Department Director Bernie Toon said the city expects the first one to arrive this summer for weeks of testing along the route. New Flyer will use the testing data to make any tweaks as it builds the rest of the buses, he said.

“We’re leaving nothing to chance this time around,” Toon said.

The city anticipates the remaining 17 would be ready by the end of winter 2020.

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