Toyota might have another stinky legal problem on its hands. A proposed class-action lawsuit filed in the US. District Court for the Southern District of Florida claims the automaker committed fraud by failing to properly address an HVAC problem that leaves Camry cabins in an unpleasantly scented state.

Condensation is the culprit in this issue, though the plaintiffs accuse Toyota of covering up the fact that it doesn’t have a solution.

The lawsuit, Javier Cardenas, et al. v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al., was filed on July 12th and concerns Camrys of the 2012 to 2017 model year. CarComplaints uncovered the legal action.

According to plaintiff Javier Cardenas, who lives in Missouri but purchased a 2014 Camry when living in Florida, cranking the air conditioning in his car leads to a “funky, horrid, old smell.” Cardenas, who still owns the car, says passengers complain of a foul odor even when the A/C is off. A trip to a Missouri Toyota dealer resulted in a $300 quote for taking apart the instrument panel; instead, the plaintiff carried out the suggestions the dealer provided for mitigating the smell (opening the vents, periodically turning on the heater), to no avail.

The content of a follow-up call to Toyota isn’t mentioned in the lawsuit. Nor is it mentioned whether the second claimant, Kurt Kirton of Tennessee, has ever experienced such issues with his own 2015 Camry. Such is the nature of lawsuits.

2015-2017 Toyota Camry SE silver

Regardless, there have been issues with the Camry’s HVAC system, leading to several technical service bulletins (TSBs) over the years. As early as 1997, Toyota issued a TSB to eliminate musty odors that occured when the operator cranked cold A/C in a vehicle left sitting in a hot, humid environment for a period of time. The automaker blamed the odors on either a blocked evaporator housing drain pipe, or microbial growth in the evaporator.

A 2009 TSB informed dealers of a “newly designed evaporator sub-assembly … made available to decrease the potential for HVAC odor.” This bulletin was updated in 2011. Two years later, another TSB told technicians that the odors were “naturally occurring from the HVAC system and/or related environmental factors,” adding that “there is no way to eliminate these odors.” It also listed mitigation measures. The TSB was updated in 2015 to cover 2007 to 2015 model year Camrys and Camry Hybrids.

The two plaintiffs claim the source of the smell — suspected mold — poses potential harm to the vehicle’s occupants, and that the automaker covered this up by having dealers claim the odors were nothing unusual. They also claim they paid more than they would have, had they known of the HVAC system’s smell. Hence the fraud allegation.

“No reasonable consumer expects to purchase or lease a vehicle with a HVAC System Defect that exposes them to foul, noxious, and/or toxic odors, mold, and other contaminants,” the suit states.

It will be up to Toyota to prove that there was/is no risk to occupants from possible mold spores in the car’s vents, and that its communications with dealers and customers was above board.

This is not the first class-action lawsuit filed over the issue. Over the past few years, at least two suits have targeted Toyota for reeking A/C operation, while message boards are full of queries about how to eliminate such odors.

[Image: Toyota]




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