Almost half a million Australians are set to go head-to-head with Toyota in one of the country’s biggest claims in legal history.
The class-action lawsuit was lodged Monday by Maddens Lawyers in Victoria’s Supreme Court, with the lead lawyer flagging a potential $1 billion payout from Toyota, Australian Associated Press reported.
Popular Toyota vehicles including the Hi-Lux, LandCruiser, RAV4, Prado, Fortuner, Granvia and HiAce were involved in the lawsuit, which is applicable to cars purchased since February 2016.
The claim will allege Toyota used “defeat devices” to evade Australian standards and hide vehicle emissions.
The lawsuit will claim some Toyota vehicles used “sophisticated engineering” and “multiple sensors” in a sneaky effort to comply with emissions standards during test conditions, Maddens Lawyers special counsel Brendan Pendergast said.
In real-world use, however, the methods were ineffective.
“We allege that not through accident but through deliberate engineering intervention, these vehicles are fitted with what are generically called defeat devices,” Mr Pendergast said.
“When the vehicle comes under load or achieves speeds commonly required in the usual purchaser of a vehicle, the vehicle no longer complies with the emission standards.”
Mr Pendergast argued buyers may have been convinced to purchase Toyota vehicles under the false belief they had low emissions.
He claimed the correct emissions would only be displayed when the vehicle was driven at higher speeds in non testing environments.
“Many Toyota owners would be shocked, disappointed. This class action is one of the biggest claims in Australia’s legal history. It could result in each participant receiving tens of thousands of dollars of compensation,” Mr Pendergast said.
Maddens Lawyers’ class action case is being funded by a British legal firm.
Toyota Australia has vigorously denied claims made in the lawsuit.
“Toyota Australia stands by its reporting, monitoring and evaluation standards in relation to the emissions for all its vehicles,” the company said in a statement.
“We will defend the class action announced today rigorously.”
Toyota is the biggest vehicle manufacturer in Australia by a large margin, with the Toyota Hi-Lux being the country’s top-selling vehicle for the month.