A proposed class action alleges the 12-volt battery in 2013-2018 Toyota RAV4 vehicles is defective and can cause electrical shorts leading to a sudden loss of power or engine fire.
The 75-page complaint claims the electrical shorts, essentially an interruption of electricity before it reaches its final destination, linked to the apparent RAV4 battery defect can manifest when the B+ terminal makes contact with the battery hold-down frame, which, in addition to a loss of power, can cause vehicle stalling and/or a fire within the engine compartment. The lawsuit, filed in California on June 24, describes the apparent defect as a “life-threatening safety issue” for which Toyota has refused to recall or replace affected batteries.
According to the suit, Toyota “knew or should have known” that its 2013-2018 RAV4s suffered from the battery defect and are therefore unfit for their intended purpose of providing safe, reliable transportation. Nevertheless, the automaker has failed to disclose to drivers that affected RAV4s can suddenly lose electrical power, stall, smoke or catch fire, the case claims, alleging Toyota has actively concealed the defect despite its awareness of numerous customer complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In order to keep a car’s 12-volt battery in place in its tray, automakers typically secure it with hold-down straps or frames, the suit says. These means of securing a battery both minimize excessive vibration while the vehicle is in use and prevent the battery from coming into contact with other engine components that might cause it to short, the case states.
For the RAV4 vehicles at issue, the defect causes electrical shorts when a battery’s B+ terminals come into contact with the battery hold-down frame itself, the lawsuit claims:
“Short circuits occur when there is a fault in the wiring harness, which shunts electricity between circuits before it gets to its destination. When the hold down frame comes into contact with the B+ terminal, it causes a short circuit in that the electrical current is directed away from its intended destination.”
The case stresses that short circuits are extremely dangerous and can damage a vehicle’s electronic components, trigger the check engine light, blow fuses, drain the battery and leave a driver stranded. Moreover, short circuits can also produce excessive heat to wiring components and possibly result in smoke and fire, the suit says.
Per the lawsuit, hundreds of complaints have been submitted to the NHTSA and Toyota directly over the RAV4 battery issue, which the plaintiffs contend “demonstrate the unsafe and widespread nature of the Battery Defect” and Toyota’s awareness of the problem before selling the vehicles. On February 25, 2021, the NHTSA, after receiving complaints from consumers and additional Early Warning Report data from Toyota, opened an investigation into the 2013-2018 RAV4s, specifically into a “thermal event originating in the left side of the engine compartment,” the suit adds.
The lawsuit looks to represent all individuals in the United States who bought or leased a 2013 through 2018 Toyota RAV4 hybrid. The case also proposes to cover “sub-classes” of consumers in Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire and Missouri.
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