CHICAGO – Toyota’s decision to settle with customers suing for loss of resale value related to unintended-acceleration recalls took many in the industry by surprise when it was announced in December.
The auto maker earlier said it had scientific evidence disproving its vehicles could accelerate on their own barring the issues – sticky pedals and entrapped floor mats – for which it recalled more than 10 million cars and light trucks in the U.S. three years ago.
But Bill Fay, Toyota Div. group vice president, says the decision to settle with plaintiffs was a no-brainer considering how long a court case could have dragged on.
“The decision was made to…move on, and if we’re going to have some kind of financial expense in all of this, let’s do it in a way we can focus in on the customer and do something for them, rather than spend years more in courts trying to fight this,” Fay tells WardsAuto in an interview here.
Toyota will pay $1.1 billion to settle the class-action lawsuit brought by owners who claim their Toyota, Lexus and Scion cars lost value due to the recalls, which attracted widespread media attention in the U.S. and led to Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s tearful testimony before the U.S. Congress.
At least $250 million of the $1.1 billion is earmarked for customers who sold their cars between September 2009 and December 2010 and claimed loss of value. Another $250 million is going toward vehicles that can’t be retrofitted with a brake-override system.
Other court cases regarding alleged unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles are pending, including personal-injury lawsuits.
Fay says Toyota is eager to put the past behind it and focus on the future, which includes launching new models such as the refreshed Toyota Tundra pickup truck that debuted at the Chicago auto show, as well as promoting models unveiled in 2012.
One of Toyota’s 2012 releases was the Scion FR-S rear-wheel-drive sports car. The FR-S enjoyed relatively good volume last year, racking up 11,417 deliveries in the U.S. in roughly six months on the market, WardsAuto data shows.
Toyota Europe plans to unveil a convertible concept of the Toyota 86, the European version of the FR-S, at next month’s Geneva auto show. Although the auto maker hints at a production model, Fay says he cannot confirm that.
However, he would be interested in a Scion version, should the car come to fruition. “If there’s a chance for the company to make that vehicle and distribute it in Europe, I think there would certainly be interest from our American consumers,” Fay says.
Toyota has said it hoped to keep the FR-S fresh with variants as a way to blunt the drop in demand for new sports cars as the models age.