Lexus is the brand name for the luxury car line produced by Japanese automaker, Toyota. The first Lexus was released in 1989 to compete with Honda’s new luxury division, Acura. In fact, Toyota began designing the first Lexus in 1983 when the company owner issued a challenge to create the world’s best car. The Lexus LS 400 was first released in the United States in 81 independent dealerships after going through 450 prototypes produced by 60 designers and 24 engineer teams. It was recognized for being a much more affordable option of a luxury vehicle. The brand also developed a reputation for good customer service early on by issuing a voluntary recall of 8,000 vehicles based on 2 customer complaints.
In 2005, Toyota started selling vehicles in Japan under the Lexus brand name and began expanding to markets all over the world, including Taiwan, Australia, North Korea, South Africa, and Malaysia. Today the brand sells 200,000 vehicles annually and has an approximate value of $3 billion yearly. They focus on producing many models of high-end sports cars, sedans, hybrids, and SUVs. Lexus is the highest selling Japanese luxury car brand, and has one of the highest customer retention rates in the automotive industry.
Lexus Defects and Recalls
This section by no means represents a comprehensive list of manufacturing and operating malfunctions, and it is advisable to check for complete information on any recalls that may apply to your vehicle in order to quickly and safely address them. The following information, however, compiles some of the past and current common issues that Lexus owners may experience.
In December of 2010, Toyota paid $10 million to the family of four people who were killed in an accident involving a runaway Lexus in suburban San Diego. Their car reached speeds of 120 before crashing into an SUV, flying off the road, rolling, and exploding into flames. The incident led to recalls of millions of Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration.
In addition, Toyota owners filed a class action lawsuit in 2010 alleging that Toyota knew about the condition for over a decade and had never addressed the hundreds of customer complaints and injuries surrounding the defect. The lawsuit stated that the acceleration occurred due to a faulty electronic throttle control system; however, this could not be proved in court. Investigators did find that, in some cases, “loose or thick floor mats had entrapped the gas pedal, causing the unintended acceleration,” and, in others, an issue with the gas pedal linkage allowed it to stick in the open position.
Even though Toyota maintained that its cars were safe, the company agreed in a 2015 settlement to pay $1.2 billion to owners of Toyotas. The settlement covers all Lexus vehicles from the model years 1998 to 2010 sold in the US and will compensate owners for the loss of value in their vehicle. Toyota is also installing brake-override systems in 3.25 million vehicles manufactured before 2010.
Although the matter is “settled,” Toyota owners and families of the deceased continue to bring hundreds of wrongful-death and personal injury cases against the company. While the official death toll from the acceleration scandal is 37, unofficial reports put the number closer to 89.
Various Lexus vehicles were also involved in a huge series of recalls this year which encompassed 17 automakers who installed Japanese made Takata airbags inflators into around 42 million vehicles sold in the United States. Takata did not implement a particular drying agent or “desiccant” in the production of their airbags, which caused a degradation of the propellant. Over time, this can cause unintended and unsafe airbag explosion which can send shards of plastic shrapnel into the driver’s face while the car is in operation.
The airbags have been linked to 13 deaths and hundreds of injuries worldwide. the Lexus vehicle models that have been recalled so far include the 2007–2011 ES 350, 2010–2011 GX 460, 2006–2011 IS, and 2008-2010 SC 430. In September of 2016, a woman filed a lawsuit against Toyota for their failure to replace the Takata airbag inflators in her Lexus even after they had issued a recall because they did not have the necessary parts in stock. They also failed to provide her with a loaner car promised in the warranty. Allegedly, Toyota told her to prevent anyone from sitting in the passenger seat, but she believes that the inflators would injure other people in the car if they were to explode. She also says that Toyota is treating the problem like a minor inconvenience rather than a deadly safety flaw.
Many Toyota models have had issues with exploding sunroofs, but, in October of 2016, a California Lexus owner initiated a class action lawsuit to address the defect. The plaintiff experienced the issue firsthand when the sunroof of her Lexus RX 350 shattered while she was driving on the highway. Although she was protected by the cover shade, she says that the defect puts both drivers and passengers in danger. The lawsuit alleges that Toyota has known about the problem for four years but has done nothing to address the problem, even refusing to pay for replacement sunroofs. The plaintiff further states that she believes Toyota is actively trying to conceal information about the defect from potential customers. Many news sources have reported on the recurring Toyota defect.
Toyota has also come under criticism for the way it has dealt with a “sticky dashboard” issue in many of its models which carry the Lexus brand. In 2011, Toyota issued a service bulletin to repair some Lexus models for dashboards which would begin to melt, warp, and deform in the heat, becoming sticky to the touch and sending up glare into the windshield that obstructed the driver’s view. The problem turned out to be common, and multiple lawsuits ensued, including one in 2014 covering the 2006-2008 Lexus ES and 2006-2008 Lexus IS. Since then, Toyota has created a warranty program for people affected by the issue and promised new dashboards to 3.5 million owners of vehicles made before 2006 (although there are many complaints from owners of vehicles produced after 2006).
In September of 2016, yet another class-action lawsuit was filed against Toyota for their slow and ineffectual response in replacing dashboards. The plaintiff says she has been waiting 20 months for a replacement on her 2004 Lexus RX 330. Toyota says that no official recall has been issued because the dashboards represent a cosmetic issue, not a safety one.
Representation for Colorado Personal Injury Victims
Multinational automakers have very little incentive to address customer complaints unless they are forced to be held responsible. Many massive recalls have stemmed from lawsuits against car companies, helping millions of people become aware of safety issues with their vehicles and implementing fixes and repairs before a tragedy occurs. If you are aware of an unaddressed safety issue in your vehicle, or if you have experienced any of the problems detailed on this page, a personal injury lawyer can help you achieve justice. To set up your free case consultation, call Jeremy Rosenthal today at (303) 853-2223 or contact him online.