Toyota (TM) said it has set aside $2 billion for the recall of about eight million cars and light trucks with brake problems. This does not include the cost of a recall of 2010 models of its Prius hybrid for trouble with the car’s brakes. The amount may not be nearly enough if the accusations of a lawyer who worked for the Japanese car company are true.
Dimitrios Biller, who worked as managing counsel for Toyota’s American operations from 2003 to 2007, told ABC News that the automaker regularly hid evidence of safety defects from consumers and regulators, and fostered a culture of “hypocrisy and deceit.”Biller said that acceleration problems on Toyota cars are due to electronic throttle controls. He also said he believes that the car company would lie to the federal government.
It is not clear why Biller would take these accusations to the news media and the public. The comments may be a form of revenge. “About two years into his tenure, said Biller, he began experiencing mental issues, which he claimed was related to the stress of his internal battle with the company,” ABC reported. “Biller received a $3.9 million settlement when he left Toyota, and also signed a non-disclosure agreement. Toyota sued him in 2008, alleging that he had violated the non-disclosure agreement.”
Toyota is faced with 41 class action suits over the value of the cars which are being recalled and 13 claims about harm suffered from accidents in the models which are part of the recall. Biller’s statement will almost certainly embolden others to sue Toyota and claim that the company fostered a climate which allowed dangerous problems with its vehicles to go undisclosed. Toyota’s legal costs and suits against the company could multiply as a result of the ABC report and legal discovery that could follow it.
At the very least, Biller’s statement will be one more reason that consumers will avoid purchase of Toyota cars, and another reason that the Japan’s company’s brand will continue to be damaged in a way that is beyond repair.
Douglas A. McIntyre