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HAVE TOYOTA POLICIES OBSTRUCTED TAKATA SAFETY RECALL COMPLETIONS?

A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEALER SAYS YES. A FEDERAL REPORT MAY CONFIRM IT.

THE TAKATA MONITOR’S FINDINGS

Over 13 people have been killed by dangerous Takata airbags.

In an effort to increase Takata safety recall completion rates the federal government assigned an “independent monitor” to observe manufacturer processes. The independent Takata monitor compiled and submitted a report on November 15, 2017.

The report explains manufacturers can increase safety recall completion rates by providing, “dealers with owner contact information for assigned VINs so that they can conduct outreach to owners of assigned VINs…” Surprisingly, the report also states that, “Many dealers feel they receive inadequate data from affected vehicle manufacturers…”

The Takata monitor reported that this VIN specific data to be used by local dealerships for safety recall completion outreach contributed to “more than doubling” the Takata safety recall completion rates “in less than two months.”

DEALER CLAIMS TOYOTA PURPOSELY REDUCED RECALL COMPLETION RATES

One Southern California Toyota dealer has filed a lawsuit against Toyota alleging Toyota “destroyed” a software technology that provided VIN specific safety recall data for un-repaired dangerous Takata airbag recalls as well as other defects across Toyota’s entire lineup.

The suit states the Toyota dealer’s software “automatically cross-referenced a Toyota vehicle’s VIN number against the Toyota recall database” which allowed his dealerships to “easily and immediately identify all open and un-repaired” safety recalls – including Toyota’s 2013 Takata airbag recall.

The dealer was then mailing a letter “directly to any customer” in the area “who owns a Toyota car with an outstanding safety recall” and “offered repair at no charge.”

The Southern California dealer’s lawsuit alleges Toyota wanted to reduce safety recall completion rates because the manufacturer bears a great deal of the repair costs. The lawsuit states, “Toyota was trying to strong-arm dealers to save money on fixing recalls; and it worked.”

The suit alleges that Toyota removed safety recall “codes from its internal website”, “pressured dealers not to use” the VIN specific safety recall software, “sent threatening cease-and-desist letters” to dealers that did use the software to increase safety recall completion rates, and “shut down the dealerships’ user profile…used to run VIN numbers against open recalls.”

Currently, Toyota only provides VIN specific safety recall lists for the Takata airbag safety recall to dealers but no others. To assist with increasing safety recall completion rates, other manufacturers like Honda and Volkswagen have provided franchise dealers with VIN specific data in some form for all safety recalls.

The dealer’s allegations about the software are summed up with the following sentence: “Unlike other manufacturers, Toyota is actively preventing its dealers from fixing open safety recalls.”

DEALER CLAIMS TOYOTA STILL “LOCKING OUT” HIS PERSONNEL TRYING TO IDENTIFY UN-REPAIRED TAKATA RECALLS

The Southern California dealer says Toyota policy still purposely prevents dealerships across the country from completing the maximum number of safety recalls – including unrepaired Takata recalls – by locking dealers out of Toyota’s recall database if they run a certain volume of VIN-specific inquiries.

The dealer provided this photo of Toyota’s “lock-out” message that an employee received while checking VIN numbers for unrepaired Takata safety recalls:

The dealer states personnel have received this lock out message while manually running VIN numbers in an effort to identify other dangerous safety recalls as well – not just Takata airbags.

DEALER’S CREDIBILITY CONFIRMED?

In addition to the allegations of Toyota’s deliberate shut down of a proven safety recall completion tool, the Southern California dealer’s 2017 lawsuit also alleged Toyota issued inadequate safety recall repairs (aka “remedies”) for defective hybrid inverters in certain 2010-2014 Prius vehicles. The dealer stated even after the software update safety recall remedy for the defective inverters was completed, the vehicles continued to spontaneously lose power or shut down. The lawsuit states:

“…this dilatory “remedy” did not fix the safety defect. Many customers who received the “software re-flash” still experienced failing inverters. Thus, they were still at risk of experiencing a shut-down or loss of power while driving, which is a serious safety defect.”

The Los Angeles Times inquired with Toyota in early 2017 regarding the dealer’s accusations about the failed safety recall remedy. Toyota responded stating, “Toyota stands behind the effectiveness and appropriateness of the inverter recall remedy…”

However, in October 2018 Toyota announced an additional safety recall – J0V – on over 750,000 2010-2014 Prius vehicles due to continued vehicle shut downs or losses of power after the original safety recall remedy had been completed on the defective inverters.

The Los Angeles Times published another article about Toyota’s defective hybrid inverters on October 5, 2018 after the J0V safety recall had been announced. The LA Times article stated, “It was the first time the company has acknowledged that the earlier recall still left owners unsafe.”

Toyota’s J0V dealer letter states their latest safety recall addresses a “new condition.”

You can the Los Angeles Times article on the J0V safety recall here.

You can read more about Toyota’s defective hybrid inverters here.