Japanese car giant Toyota has lost an appeal to the Federal Court in Australia and must pay up to $1.3 billion to more 250,000 HiLux, Prado and Fortuner owners of 4WD vehicles installed with faulty diesel particulate filters.
In April last year, the Federal Court found that there was a “core defect” with the anti-pollution devices on some of Toyota’s most popular diesel four-wheel-drives.
The defect was on 264,170 vehicles manufactured between October 2015 and April 2020. The defect resulted in vehicles producing excessive white smoke due to a clogged exhaust system caused by a defective diesel particulate filter.
The Federal Court had ordered Toyota to compensate the owners of affected vehicles with a payment of 17.5% of the vehicle’s “average retail price”. Toyota launched an appeal in June 2022.
No compensation for millions forced to breath polluted air
While the vehicle owners themselves will be compensated for the faulty filters, there will be no compensation for citizens living in cities and towns who had to breath in the higher levels of pollution caused by Toyota’s faulty exhaust system.
More and more studies are showing the terrible health impacts of diesel particulate pollution on our society.
A world-first study published in February showed that exposure to diesel exhaust pollution can dull human brains within hours.
Another study published last month showed that in addition to 12,000 cardiovascular hospitalisations, 66,000 active asthma cases, and almost 7,000 respiratory hospitalisations, petrol and diesel exhaust pollution could cause more than 11,000 premature deaths per year in Australia.
That’s about ten times more deaths than road accidents cause in Australia each year.
Greenpeace welcomes Federal Court’s decision
Greenpeace campaigner Jo Rafalowicz says the appeal showed Toyota trying to avoid responsibility for its faulty diesels.
“This case is one more in a long line of dodgy behaviour from Toyota when it comes to pollution from its cars: disguise, defeat and deny is their modus operandi,” said Rafalowicz.
“While once a leader in clean car technology, Toyota has fallen way behind the pack. This latest example shows Toyota is willing to release cars with ‘core defects’ leading to excess pollution and higher costs for their owners – and it took a court case for them to take responsibility.
“We cannot trust Toyota when it comes to pollution from vehicles while it continues to greenwash its environmental credentials.”
Greenpeace says that Toyota is facing a similar class action concerning ‘defeat devices’ in Victoria’s Supreme Court, over the devices’ different level of emissions in test environments compared to normal use.
Toyota also referred to ACCC over greenwashing
The appeal loss for Toyota comes in the same month that it was reported to Australia’s consumer watchdog for “greenwashing” asking it to investigate if Toyota’s environmental claims are deceptive or misleading.
The car giant could face fines of up to $50 million after it was referred to the ACCC by Greenpeace in early March for allegedly making misleading claims regarding the environmental performance of its vehicles and its net zero ambitions.
At the time director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Electrify campaign Lindsay Soutar said: “We believe Toyota Motor Corporation’s advertising is misleading Australian consumers by understating its cars’ emissions and overstating its commitment to clean transport.
“Toyota Motor Corporation makes claims in its advertising that give the false impression the company is leading the transition to clean cars, but the truth is Toyota is not leading the transition but is acting globally to block the take-up of electric vehicles.”
Greenpeace made the complaint just after ACCC announced that it was planning a crackdown on corporate greenwashing.
Daniel Bleakley is a clean technology researcher and advocate with a background in engineering and business. He has a strong interest in electric vehicles, renewable energy, manufacturing and public policy.