A Santa Maria, California resident has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Subaru of America, Inc. that claims the company knew the windshields on certain 2015 and 2016 Outback and Legacy vehicles could crack, chip, fracture or otherwise fail for “no reason at all,” yet still sold or leased the cars anyway.
What exactly are we talking about here?
Alleging an “egregious breach” of its duties to consumers, the lawsuit claims Subaru, in addition to knowingly releasing into the market cars that potentially came with dangerous defects, instructed dealers to “systematically deny valid warranty claims.” The plaintiff alleges Subaru dealers, instead, employed a practice of pinning consumers’ windshield failures on external causes not covered under warranty.
Interestingly, Subaru appears to have acknowledged the potential windshield defect with a half-hearted warranty extension program implemented in the fall of 2015, the complaint says. The problem, the lawsuit alleges, is that only some, not all, Subaru owners and lessees were notified of the warranty extension—which the case says provided free-of-charge windshield replacements under “certain very limited circumstances”—leaving thousands of proposed class members with no covered repair options.
“On information and belief, [Subaru] dealers’ systematic denial of valid warranty claims is part of a concerted effort orchestrated by [Subaru] to minimize the cost of warranty claims,” the lawsuit alleges.
At its core, the lawsuit argues proposed class members—many of whom have been forced to go out-of-pocket to pay for windshield repairs—would not have paid as much for the affected vehicles, or purchased them at all, had they known of the alleged windshield defect.
This sounds serious. Was there a recall?
No. The lawsuit claims that, to date, Subaru has not recalled any of the allegedly affected vehicles nor offered consumers any suitable repair options.
Did Subaru customers complain?
Of the lawsuit’s 67 pages, 44 pages are devoted to consumer complaints filed with the NHTSA over alleged windshield defects found in 2015-2016 Outback and Legacy vehicle models.
A few choice cuts from the complaint:
NHTSA Complaint: DRIVING DOWN THE STREET, HEARD A LOUD POP AND THE WINDSHELD CRACKED. L SHAPED CRACK ABOUT 6 IN IN EACH DIRECTION. ABOUT THE SAME WAY THAT HAPPENED TO THE OTHER 122 PEOPLE THAT FILED COMPLAINTS FOR OUTBACK WINDSHIELDS CRACKING.
NHTSA Complaint: TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2015 SUBARU OUTBACK. WHILE PARKED, THE VEHICLE DEVELOPED A CRACK IN THE WINDSHIELD. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO THE DEALER, BUT WAS NOT DIAGNOSED OR REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOT NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURE. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 1,250.
NHTSA Complaint: TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2015 SUBARU OUTBACK. THE CONTACT STATED THAT WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS ON, THE FRONT WINDOW DEFROSTER CAUSED THE FRONT WINDSHIELD TO CRACK. THE CRACK WAS LOCATED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WINDSHIELD AND EXTENDED UPWARD. ALSO, THE CONTACT INDICATED THAT THE PLASTIC EXTERIOR PANEL NEAR THE WINDOW MELTED. THE CAUSE OF THE FAILURE WAS NOT DIAGNOSED OR REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOT NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURE. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 3,400...UPDATED 06/09/15*BF
NHTSA Complaint: WHILE DRIVING THE CAR, A CRACK APPEARED IN MY WINDSHIELD ON THE DRIVER SIDE. IT FORMED AN REVERSE L ABOUT THE MIDDLE OF THE WINDSHIELD. THERE WAS NO IMPACT OR ANYTHING HITTING THE WINDSHIELD. THE CRACK APPEARED BEFORE MY EYES AS I WAS DRIVING UP THE ROAD.
NHTSA Complaint: 6-8 INCH CRACK IN WINDSHIELD, NO ROCK IMPACT OR PREVIOUS DAMAGE. WINDSHIELD HAS TO BE REPLACED AND EYESIGHT SYSTEM RE-CALIBRATED. CRACK OCCURRED DRIVING STRAIGHT ON A 4 LANE HIGHWAY, NO TRUCKS IN THE AREA, NOT CLOSE TO OTHER CARS.
NHTSA Complaint: WITHIN 9 DAYS OF RECEIVING A REPLACEMENT WINDSHIELD FOR MY SUBARU OUTBACK, MY WINDSHIELD WAS DAMAGED AGAIN. THE DEALER NOTED IT ON 8/8/15 AND THE WINDSHIELD WAS REPLACED ON 7/31/15. I DO NOT RECALL ANY ROCK HITTING THE WINDSHIELD. THE TOP CORNER OF THE PASSENGER SIDE WINDSHIELD HAD A CRACK. I DID CONTACT SUBARU OF AMERICA WHO AGREED TO REPLACE THE WINDSHIELD FREE OF CHARGE.
NHTSA Complaint: REPLACING THE WINDSHIELD 3 TIMES ALREADY IN A 2 YEAR PERIOD. NO CHIPS ARE CREATED FROM SMALL INTERACTIONS WITH OBJECT LIKE LITTLE STONES BUT IMMEDIATE CRACKS. THE VEHICLE WAS IN STATIONARY AND MOVING POSITIONS ON A STREET AND HIGWAY. MAKES ME WONDER WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IF THERE WOULD BE MORE SERIOUS COLLISION THAN JUST A SMALL ROCK.
I’m no mechanic, but all of this sounds dangerous.
While the dangers of a potentially defective windshield may be obvious, the case nonetheless makes the point that each vehicle component is meant to work in unison to keep occupants safe in the event of an accident. From the lawsuit:
“These safety features, including the windshield, are all part of a safety network. Each individual component of this network is dependent on the others functioning properly. If there is a compromise or weakness in just one aspect of the network, the likelihood of other parts not working properly is increased. All components of a vehicle’s safety restraint system are designed to work together to keep vehicle occupants within the relative safety of the passenger compartment during collision or roll over.”
Which consumers does the lawsuit intend to cover?
The class action proposes to cover a nationwide class of owners and lessees of any 2015 through 2016 Subaru Outback or Legacy vehicle. The case also includes a California-only subclass of consumers who own or lease 2015-2016 Outback and Legacy vehicles.