Toyota hit with potential Cook County class action over excessive Rav4 oil consumption

By Jonathan Bilyk | Sep 25, 2015

Excessive oil consumption in some of its Rav4 sport utility vehicles has sparked a potential class action lawsuit against Toyota.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, plaintiffs Maria and Jan Strama filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the automaker, alleging the company knew its 2007 model year Rav4 vehicle’s suffered from an engine defect, yet did little to fix the problem and never advised either vehicle owners or the public of the problem until the vehicles were clear of the warranty period and had suffered significant lost value, leaving owners on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars in repair costs to fix the problem.

The Stramas are represented in the action by attorney Kenneth M. DucDuong, of the KMD Law Office, of Chicago.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified “damages and punitive damages to be determined at trial.” The plaintiffs’ complaint estimated total damages to the automaker at less than $5 million.

The lawsuit centers on an engine defect the plaintiffs allege is common to the 2006-08 versions of the Toyota Rav4 SUV.

As the vehicle ages and the vehicle racks up more than 30,000 driven miles, the engine begins to consume more oil than it should, the plaintiffs alleged. The lawsuit notes the engine would often be left with little to no oil each time the time came to change the oil at the regularly prescribed intervals of 5,000 miles or 6 months. The complaint details the engine, which can hold 4.3 quarts of motor oil, would consume oil at a rate of more than 1 quart per 1,200 miles driven.

The complaint alleged Toyota was well aware of the problems, as it was detailed in consumer complaints made to maintenance shops at Toyota dealerships nationwide, posted online and sent to regulatory agencies, among others.

The Stramas, who had purchased their 2007 Rav4 new in 2006, cited numerous occasions in which they took the vehicle to a Toyota dealership in Park Ridge complaining of the excessive oil consumption and a consistent smell of burning oil. Yet, each time, the dealership’s maintenance staff would only flush and refill the oil, replace the oil filter and perform an oil consumption test. As recently as May 2015, the vehicle had exceeded just 44,000 miles on the odometer, yet had suffered from the oil consumption problem since 2010, the complaint stated.

In 2011, Toyota issued a special technical bulletin explaining how to repair the recurring issue, and stating the problem should be repaired under warranty. However, the bulletin was issued only to dealerships, the lawsuit alleged. Yet the Stramas alleged the dealership to which they took their vehicle from 2010-2015 never informed them of the possibility of repairing the vehicle under warranty. The complaint stated the Stramas believe other vehicle owners and the public have similarly been left in the dark on the issue.

According to the complaint, Toyota’s recommended repair procedure to fix the oil consumption issue involves replacing the engine’s piston and piston ring set, a repair the complaint asserted can cost from $2,000-$7,000.

Not repairing the problem could result in “abrupt” engine failure and “catastrophic” engine damage, the complaint asserted. Even if catastrophic damage is avoided, the oil consumption defect would likely result in costs for unneeded extra maintenance, including to prematurely replace such components as spark plugs, oxygen sensors and catalytic converters, while also reducing the vehicles’ fuel efficiency and increasing the vehicle’s emissions.

The Stramas alleged they would not have purchased their vehicle, or would have at least demanded to pay substantially less, if they had known of the alleged defect.

The two count complaint alleges breach of “the duty of good faith and fair dealing” and a violation of the Illinois consumer fraud statute.

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KMD Law Office Toyota Motor Sales USA

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