When a modern vehicle is in a crash, the seatbelts lock in place and the air bags deploy. If these two things fail to happen, the vehicle’s passengers don’t have the full advantage of the seatbelts or any advantage from the air bags. The complaint for this class action alleges that that’s exactly what’s happening with vehicles from Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. due to defective airbag control units (ACUs) from ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all current and former owners and lessees of the class vehicles. There is also a California Subclass of all members of the Nationwide Class who live in California and who bought or leased their vehicles in California.
These are the class vehicles:
The complaint claims that the ACU failures are due to an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) in the system. The ZF TRW ACU is prone to “electrical overstress” (EOS) due to the excess electrical signals put out during a collision. The EOS then causes the ASIC in the ACU to fail, which means that the safety features it should activate fail as well.
The complaint alleges that Toyota communicated with ZF TRW about the problem as early as August 2011, meaning that it has been aware of the problem for a long time. Certain other car companies—FCA, Hyundai, and Kia—have had the same problem with ZF TRW airbags and have issued partial recalls. However, Toyota has not.
According to the complaint, the defect has been responsible for at least six injuries and four deaths. Because of this, in March 2018, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the problem in Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
In April 2019, the NHTSA changed its investigation into an Engineering Analysis. An Engineering Analysis is allowed to recommend a safety recall.
Despite this, Toyota has not informed customers of the defect. In fact, Toyota uses a hexagon with the words, “Toyota Safety Sense” and the tag line, “Designed for safety” in its marketing materials.
The company has not recalled the class vehicles or offered to reimburse buyers and lessees for the vehicles’ defects.
The complaint alleges breaches of warranties and violations of California consumer protection laws. It says that the statute of limitations should be tolled because it was not possible for consumers to know about the failure of the ACU.