In an effort to move forward, Toyota Motor Corp. is setting aside at least $1.1 billion to settle various lawsuits stemming from its unintended acceleration debacle. Toyota has already paid millions to the NHTSA for failing to properly disclose internal information, and has issued several costly recalls. The new settlement will allow for new brake-override systems to be installed in over three million eligible vehicles. Toyota has said up to 16 million vehicles will be covered in the settlement, including cars from Toyota’s luxury arm, Lexus, and youth-oriented brand, Scion. Vehicles will receive parts warranties ranging between three and 10 years, on parts that could relate to unintended acceleration.
“This agreement marks a significant step forward for our company, one that will enable us to put more of our energy, time and resources into Toyota’s central focus: making the best vehicles we can for our customers and doing everything we can to meet their needs,” Christopher Reynolds, Toyota’s top North American legal officer, said in a statement. The agreement allows Toyota to settle the claims without admitting fault, a contentious issue, and one Toyota was most concerned about.
Toyota has long contended that its vehicles are safe; A Department of Transportation probe concluded that Toyota’s throttle-control electronics were not the cause of the accidents. In a statement, transportation secretary Ray LaHood said “we enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems and the verdict is in, there is no electronic-based cause for unintended acceleration in Toyotas.” Driver error, and “sticky” accelerator pedals and floor mats were found to be at fault. Toyota has since taken steps to remedy the accelerator pedals and floor mats.
As part of the settlement, some eligible owners who sold their cars in 2009-10 on account of bad publicity will be eligible for cash payments. Toyota will also fund research for advanced safety technologies and help to establish more driver education programs.
Steve Berman, a lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said “From the very start, this was a challenging case. We brought in automotive experts, physicists and some of the world’s leading theoreticians in electrical engineering to help us understand what happened to drivers experiencing sudden acceleration. We are extraordinarily proud of how we were able to represent the interests of Toyota owners, and believe this settlement is both comprehensive in its scope and fair in compensation.”
Toyota owners and those affected by the settlement can learn more at toyotaelsettlement.com or by calling 1-877-283-0507.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required).