Remember the panic about unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles? Some customers do -- and so do lawyers. Toyota announced it will settle a class-action lawsuit over unintended acceleration by spending at least $1.1 billion. The money will fund further repairs to vehicles not already recalled, as well as reimbursements to Toyota owners affected by the earlier recalls.
Toyota already paid millions in fines for failing to report vehicle safety defects in a timely manner. From 2009 through 2011, the company recalled millions of vehicles over concerns the accelerator pedals could "stick" or that floor mats could trap the gas pedal, causing unintended acceleration and crashes. The various fixes for different vehicles ranged from reshaping the accelerator pedals or adjusting the floor mats, to replacing electronic throttle assemblies or adding brake override software that prevents the engine from running away if the brakes are applied.
The new $1.1 billion program is part of an "economic loss settlement" intended to satisfy court cases pending in U.S. District Court. First, Toyota will add brake override software to vehicles not included in earlier recalls. The free software fix forces the engine computer to cut power if both the brake and accelerator pedals are depressed at the same time.
Second, Toyota will offer cash payments to any customer who sold their car or turned in a lease vehicle during 2009 and 2010. The payment is supposed to offset the car's loss in value due to fears surrounding Toyota's unintended acceleration scare. Some current Toyota owners who are not eligible for the brake-override upgrade will also receive cash settlements.
Finally, Toyota said its $1.1 billion payment would also cover the funding of new driver training programs and research into advance vehicle-safety features.
"This agreement marks a significant step forward for our company, one that will enable us to put more of our energy, time and resources into Toyota's central focus: making the best vehicles we can for our customers and doing everything we can to meet their needs," Toyota Motor North America chief legal counsel Christopher P. Reynolds said in a statement. "We concluded that turning the page on this legacy legal issue through the positive steps we are taking is in the best interests of the company."
Toyota settled the case despite the fact that independent reviews have found no engineering defect that caused unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
Affected customers can learn more about the proposed settlement at toyotaelsettlement.com