Toyota facing Australian class action
Up to half a million Australian drivers may be represented by Maddens Lawyers in a class-action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corporation Australia, for allegedly using a hidden feature to mask exhaust emissions, Australian Associated Press has reported.
The class-action lawsuit was lodged in Victoria’s Supreme Court on October 16, 2022, by Maddens Lawyers, with its lead lawyer suggesting Toyota could be forced to pay out up to A$1 billion.
The ‘hidden feature’ is said to be yet another instance of a vehicle manufacturer using a ‘diesel emissions defeat’ device – hardware or software, or both – that modifies a vehicle’s emissions controls under real-world driving conditions.
A defeat device ’knows’ when it’s being tested formally and allows the emissions system to meet legal requirements. However, in ordinary driving, it modifies the emissions system, to allow illegal emissions, in exchange for performance or fuel economy.
Toyota’s subsidiary, Hino Motors, has admitted to breaches of global emissions regulations and is the subject of several legal actions around the world and in Australia.
Toyota vehicles purchased since February 2016, whether new or second-hand, are targeted in the class-action lawsuit and include the Hi-Lux, LandCruiser, RAV4, Prado, Fortuner, Granvia and HiAce.
Toyota Australia issued a statement rejecting claims made in the lawsuit:
“Toyota Australia stands by its reporting, monitoring and evaluation standards in relation to the emissions for all its vehicles.
“We will defend the class action announced today rigorously.”
Maddens Lawyers seems to have done its homework on this one and they’ll need to be thorough, because Toyota is a very powerful litigator.
Maddens alleged that some Toyota vehicles used sophisticated engineering to comply with emissions standards during test conditions, but not in real-world use.
The class-action lawsuit is the latest in a series of court cases against vehicle manufacturers over defeat devices, or hardware, software and designs that change the way vehicles operate during emission testing, to evade standards.
In 2019, the Federal Court ordered Volkswagen to pay A$125 million for using diesel defeat devices, in a case bought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and lost its High Court appeal against the record fine in April 2021.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn previously launched class action lawsuits against Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda in 2015, with settlements approved in 2020.
We’ll monitor the Maddens lawsuit situation and keep OTA readers up to date with developments.