Toyota Motor Corp. has settled the class action lawsuit over headlights that shut off without warning in its 2006 to 2009 Prius hybrids. There have been at least 2,500 complaints from motorists on this problem. Under the terms of the settlement, eligible Prius owners will be reimbursed for their costs to fix failing headlight systems. They will also get their warranties for headlight problems extended to five years or 50,000 miles, rather than the standard three years or 36,000 miles. Judge Manuel Real of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles certified the class and gave preliminary approval of the settlement last week. Under its terms, eligible Prius owners will be notified by mail starting next month and have 90 days thereafter to register with the class.
There was no dollar figure reported relating to the settlement. But it was estimated that the total could run into the tens of millions of dollars, based on the number of vehicles potentially affected by the headlight problem. As many as 320,000 owners of Priuses with optional high intensity discharge (HID) headlights may be covered by the agreement. To date, Toyota has not conceded that the 2006 to 2009 Prius hybrids have a defect in the lighting system. That’s despite the numerous complaints to regulators that the HID headlamps tend to suddenly turn off, with both headlights going out simultaneously in some cases. Obviously, that creates hazardous conditions in night driving. A small number of drivers have alleged that the condition caused accidents or minor injuries.
NHTSA says its data doesn’t reveal any deaths blamed on the problem. A review of the NHTSA database shows that 49% of all complaints about 2006 to 2009 Priuses were related to lighting, headlamps or visibility. A NHTSA investigation launched in April 2009 determined that there had been more than 2,250 complaints about failing headlamps lodged with the agency or Toyota. It was also revealed that Toyota had completed almost 28,000 warranty repairs of the HID system. That investigation was dropped in August 2009 after Toyota promised to initiate a “consumer service campaign” to address the issue. Complaints of headlight failure have continued to come in, however, with dozens lodged to NHTSA in the last few months. There have also been discussions of the problem on online forums.
Beyond the safety risks of the headlight problem, many consumers also complained that dealers refused to cover the costs of repair. Instead, they were forced to pay for new headlights, or in many cases a new onboard computer that controls the lighting system. The costs of repairs varied, but typically ran between $250 and $1,000, attorneys said. The settlement will allow consumers who have receipts for their repairs, either at a Toyota dealership or elsewhere, to file for reimbursement. Eric Gibbs, who is with the San Francisco firm, Girard Gibbs, is the lead lawyer for the Plaintiffs in this case. It appears that he has done a very good job.
Source: Los Angeles Times
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