Toyota retaliates against $2 billion hit

Dozens of Australians could be entitled to a big payout as a major class action lawsuit is underway – but Toyota has vowed to fight back.

Car giant Toyota has appealed a class action ruling that could see more than 260,000 Australians receive damages totaling $2 billion.

In 2019, Australian law firms Bannister Law Class Actions and Gilbert + Tobin brought a class action lawsuit against Toyota on behalf of people who owned a Prado, HiLux or Fortuner in the years 2015 to 2020.

The cars in question were faulty, due to faulty diesel particulate filters, and caused financial loss to the owners of the vehicles.

The Federal Court ruled against Toyota in a landmark judgment in April, awarding lead plaintiff Ken Williams more than $18,000 in damages.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Toyota, as the company now faces what could become Australia’s biggest-ever class action payout, with more than 260,000 vehicle owners potentially eligible for damage totaling more than $2 billion.

Toyota has already appealed to the Federal Court of Australia, challenging the “factual and legal basis for awarding damages”.

“It was horrible”

Ken Williams will never forget the ‘horrifying’ moment his car suddenly started belching smoke at a traffic light – leaving his young children to fear the vehicle was on fire.

The Queenslander had bought a new Toyota Prado in 2016 – but within eight or nine months problems started to appear with the vehicle emitting worrying levels of foul-smelling white smoke.

The concerned dad took the Prado back to the dealership to fix the problem, and was told there was a quick fix – but to this day the problems persist, despite Mr Williams returning up to 12 times as he desperately tried to find a solution.

He told he still remembered the look of fear on his children’s faces as the smoke began billowing as his family sat in traffic.

“It was pretty scary – all the kids were in the back and I remember their expression as they thought the car was on fire,” he said.

“We didn’t know what was going on and it was awful – it’s still etched in my head to this day.”

Starting Monday this week, Gilbert + Tobin began sending court-approved notices to hundreds of thousands of eligible vehicle owners across the country, urging them to register their details.

With families across the country now feeling the pinch as cost of living pressures begin to bite, it could mean a very welcome payday for eligible Toyota owners, who stand to pocket the rough cut of the value of each vehicle at the time it was sold, which is 17.5 percent of the average retail price, plus an additional 10 percent for excess GST.

For someone who paid $60,000 for their vehicle, that equates to at least $10,500, with up to $14,000 per vehicle on the table.

Mr Williams told it had been a ‘frustrating’ battle and he had been sidelined not just because of the fault which caused his car to use far more diesel than normal, but also because of the time taken to go back. and on to the dealer, resulting in days off after being “sold a dud”.

“Each time I was told ‘it’s settled’, but it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.

“The dealership was trying to fix the problem, they just didn’t have a solution and didn’t know what to do.

“Having the judgment in my favor has been good for me but also for hundreds of thousands of other people to see that they can come forward and be compensated for all the pain and suffering.”

Gilbert + Tobin partner Matt Mackenzie urged eligible Australians to come forward and said he had heard countless frustrating cases from Toyota customers facing the same issues as Mr Williams.

“People like Ken have gone through years of this with repeated instances of having to take their vehicle and missing days of work, only to find themselves sitting at traffic lights with smoke billowing out,” he said. -he declares.

“People have been told to pull over by the police and have been abused by other motorists, so there’s this general embarrassment – you’ve bought a new car and you’re feeling good, and suddenly there there is foul smoke.

“You can imagine for that person buying a new car, it’s a deflated feeling, and that’s the common trend we’ve seen in the complaints (against Toyota).”

Mr Mackenzie said the class action lawsuit was ‘significant’ for the country because it was one of the few cases where the Federal Court exercised its power to award damages on an aggregate basis, and also due to the large number of people affected and the money involved.

“The extent of the damage is really significant and it depends on how many defective vehicles suffered a writedown, which the court concluded was the result of the defect,” he said.

“What this tells you is that this is a warning to manufacturers that if you sell a large number of defective products, you could be exposed to significant damage.”

Currently, individuals are eligible if they purchased new and defective HiLux, Prado or Fortuner diesel vehicles between October 1, 2015 and April 23, 2020 and did not sell during that time.

Historical decision

Those who meet the criteria will be contacted by email, text and mail starting Monday and invited to express their interest in receiving thousands of dollars in compensation, following the Federal Court’s decision in April.

He concluded that the vehicles in question were defective, that the defect caused a 17.5% reduction in the value of the vehicles concerned at the time of their sale and that Toyota had engaged in “deceptive” conduct in the marketing and sale. cars. .

Launched in 2019 with backing from UK funder Balance Legal Capital, the class action relates to faulty diesel particulate filters (DPFs) used in affected vehicles.

Among other issues, the court found that these faulty DPFs caused the affected vehicles to emit excessive white smoke and foul-smelling exhaust, required repeated inspections, maintenance and repairs, and increased fuel consumption.

Subject to the outcome of Toyota’s appeal, owners who apply for compensation and are deemed eligible to receive it will receive money under a court-supervised “distribution scheme” that is in course of establishment following the judgment.

Owners of Toyota HiLux, Prado and Fortuner wanting to register their interest in receiving compensation under the judgment can do it here.

Toyota strikes back

In a statement released earlier this month, Toyota said it had appealed to the Federal Court of Australia which “includes challenges to the factual and legal basis for the award of damages, in particular in circumstances where many members of the group have not experienced the problem of FAP”.

“At the same time, we understand that some customers have experienced inconvenience and discomfort due to this issue. For this, we apologize,” the statement continued.

“Since we became aware of the DPF’s concerns, we have continuously worked on an effective resolution for the affected customers.

“At every stage, we have implemented customer-focused and technically sound solutions to solve customer problems.”

Toyota said it “has been and remains committed to assisting any customer whose vehicle experiences the DPF issue and to providing free repairs.”

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