Toyota Australia is being sued over claims up to 500,000 of its diesel-powered vehicles were fitted with emissions defeat devices.
Maddens Lawyers, representing the plaintiff Adam Rowe, has just launched a class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
At this stage, Mr Rowe is the focus of the claim, but the firm has been in contact with a number of other owners and it is thought upwards of 400,000 people could end up involved.
The vehicles affected involve many of Toyota's popular models using several variants of diesel engines between February 7, 2016, and the present day. Owners of brand-new and used cars could be affected if a vehicle was sold during that time.
Variants of the HiLux, Prado, Fortuner, Granvia, HiAce, LandCruiser and RAV4 are all referenced in the lawsuit, as outlined in the table below.
|HiLux||2.8-litre1GD-FTV, 2.4-litre 2GD-FTV|
|LandCruiser||3.3-litre F33A-FTV, 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV 195kW to 200kW|
|RAV4||2.2-litre 2AD-FHV or 2AD-FTV|
It is alleged some diesel engines developed by Toyota include design elements which tamper with the vehicle's emissions control system in order to enhance the car's performance, in turn breaching Australian regulations (including ADR 79) and misleading customers.
Madden's Lawyers' Special Counsel, Brendan Pendergast, said on some Toyota models the emissions control system is alleged to perform differently in test conditions compared to on the road. This results in cars passing regulatory testing but then emitting unlawfully high levels of nitrogen oxide when on the road.
"Toyota has historically been one of Australia's most trusted brands," he said. "It is Australia's top-selling car brand. If the Court finds that Toyota has been using 'defeat devices' then there are literally hundreds of thousands of people driving a car that simply should never have been allowed on our roads."
It is thought the case, if successful, could overshadow the reach of the Dieselgate scandal here in Australia.
"This class action is one of the biggest claims in Australia's legal history," said Pendergast. "It could result in each participant receiving tens of thousands of dollars in compensation."
Responding to the legal action, a spokesperson for Toyota Australia told Wheels: "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.
"As this matter is before the courts, we have no further comment."
This class action is completely separate to another legal case against Toyota, which involves defective diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in 2015-2020 examples of the HiLux, Prado and Fortuner.
Toyota Australia is appealing that Federal Court decision, which found it misled customers about vehicles fitted with defective diesel particulate filters (DPF).
If Toyota loses, the battle could cost the manufacturer more than $2 billion in compensation to 250,000 owners.
In April this year, the Federal Court found Toyota had misled customers about a defect with the DPF equipped to cars fitted with either a 2.4-litre ‘2GD-FTV’ or 2.8-litre ‘1GD-FTV’ turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, impacting a total of 264,170 vehicles built between October 1, 2015, and April 23, 2020 across the HiLux, Fortuner, and LandCruiser Prado model ranges.
While the Court believed Toyota's "conduct in marketing the vehicles as being of acceptable quality was misleading", the local division of the manufacturer intends to appeal the decision – claiming it has worked to issue a remedy for its customers.
The DPF assembly – designed to reduce harmful exhaust emissions – was found to become clogged or blocked, stopping the system from working, and instead creating a “range of consequences including emission of foul-smelling white smoke, the display of excessive DPF notifications, and the need to have the vehicle inspected, serviced and repaired”.
Fuel consumption was also found to have increased when the issue arose.
However, the Honourable Justice Lee wholly rejected the arguments, writing “[Toyota’s] attempt to downplay the significance of the core defect and the defect consequences does not withstand scrutiny”.
Despite owners arguing the defects reduced car values by 25 per cent, Justice Lee deemed a 17.5 per cent reduction in the average retail value to be appropriate.
There is expected to be crossover with the DPF case however, and members of that are free to also take part in the Maddens' defeat device claim if their vehicle is relevant to both.
Anyone who believes their car may be involved can contact Maddens via its website.