Toyota says its reputation for quality and reliability won’t be damaged by recalls and a possible class action claim

DODGY diesels and a long list of recalls won’t dent Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability — the company claims — even though a leading law firm is considering taking a class action on behalf of more than 245,000 customers across Australia with potentially faulty vehicles.

In 2018 Toyota also tallied 21 recall notices — more than any prior year — although many were prompted by the Takata airbag safety campaign.

In December, Bannister Law said it was investigating a potential class action against Toyota Australia for “issues associated with diesel particulate filters” on the latest HiLux, Prado and Fortuner models equipped with the new generation 2.8-litre engine, sold in Australia from 2015 to 2018.

“Our clients have experienced increased fuel consumption and a loss of power of the vehicle which they believe may have been caused by the inability of the DPF to reach desired temperatures due to hard deposits accumulating on the DPF oxidation catalyst in order to commence regeneration/burn of particulates,” the law firm said.

When asked in a press conference today if Toyota had any contact with Bannister Law about the possible class action, Toyota Australia’s sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley said: “No”.

When asked if Toyota planned to have discussions with Bannister Law, Mr Hanley said: “No.”

When asked what advice he would give to owners of affected vehicles Mr Hanley said: “I would say to people having a problem with DPF … we have a very clear and precise fix in place, and they know that they can come in and get those vehicles repaired.” He added that all affected customers had been “contacted directly”.

Toyota began fitting a manual DPF-activation switch on affected vehicles from August 2018. The switch is also part of the solution for older models.

Toyota says the diesel issue — as well as a long list of recalls in 2018 — won’t hurt its reputation for quality and reliability.

“Recalls are a fact of life in this industry and it’s how we deal with those recalls and how transparent and honest and up front we are with our (customers) will dictate whether there is any negative impact,” said Mr Hanley.

“The great news for Toyota is that we had contact with these (customers), we’re fixing these vehicles as quickly as possible. Our (customers) know that Toyota will look after them. And the overwhelming feedback we get on a recall of any major proportion is largely a big thank you from our (customers) … for acting so quickly on this issue.”

Mr Hanley claimed Toyota could turn the diesel dramas and other recalls “into a positive by the way in which you action quickly and transparently. Of course we’d prefer these issues not arrive … (but) these kinds of things are a fact of life.”

Bannister Law claims the diesel particulate filters on certain HiLux, Prado and Fortuner models “may be defective because these vehicles do not burn off particulate matter in ordinary urban driving conditions”.

The law firm acknowledged that Toyota had written to customers in December 2018 offering to “clean, replace, or retro-fit a switch for these vehicles to encourage the DPF burn”.

However, the law firm said, “our clients have been experiencing the problems mentioned above for a number of years, which has caused unnecessary inconvenience and expense”.

The law firm said it was investigating “possible contraventions” of Australian Consumer Law section 18 (misleading and deceptive conduct), section 33 (omissions equating to misleading and deceptive conduct) and breaches of Australian Consumer Law Statutory Guarantees (eg. section 54).

However, Bannister Law is yet to formally commence any legal proceedings against Toyota.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling