NCDRC orders Toyota to replace Innova car after air bags fail to deploy

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The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) recently directed Toyota to replace an Innova car or issue a full refund after its airbags failed to deploy following a collision.

Presiding Member Dr Inder Jit Singh concurred with the District and State Commissions regarding the collision being a frontal one in which airbags ought to have deployed.

“We are in agreement with the findings of District Forum and State Commission regarding the collision in question being a frontal one, with an impact velocity in which airbags ought to have deployed,” the Commission said.

The NCDRC also imposed a fine of ₹15,000 on the car manufacturer.

The complainant had purchased an Innova in 2011. The car was involved in a collision with an auto-rickshaw. During this collision, the airbags in the car failed to deploy, leading to a complaint before a district consumer forum in Andhra Pradesh. The complainant also mentioned that 10 days before the collision, the car’s clutch plates had also burnt while it was being driven.

The district forum held Toyota and the concerned dealership liable for the failed airbag deployment and directed them to jointly replace the car or issue a refund of ₹15,09,415 along with a fine of ₹15,000. This order was upheld by the State Commission, leading to a revision petition by Toyota.

As per Toyota, both forums failed to consider that airbags are deployed only during frontal collisions and not side collisions. It pointed out that in the present case, the collision involved the left side of the car.

Further, Toyota stated that the Commission’s reliance on newspaper reports about them recalling cars to fix airbag systems was erroneous as the reports were irrelevant to the subject car’s model year and carried no evidentiary value.

Additionally, Toyota pointed out that the repair estimate did not mention changing of airbags or related components, suggesting that nothing was wrong with the airbags. Further, it was contended that there should be targeted component replacement instead of vehicle replacement.

On the other hand, the complainant asserted that the grounds raised by Toyota were similar to the ones raised in earlier proceedings. He contended that both the commissions concluded that the vehicle was defective only after a thorough examination of facts, evidence, technical expert witness examinations, and reports. Accordingly, he sought dismissal of the plea.

The Commission, after going through the orders of the district as well as the State commission, agreed that the collision was a frontal collision. It explained that there was no reason to disbelieve the evidence of a witness examined by the complainant, who happened to be an expert in the field.

Moreover, it noted that the evidence of a witness examined by Toyota suggested also supported this version.

“This coupled with evidence of RW-1 with respect to recall of vehicles by Toyota company for faulty airbags and wipers in the many parts of the world, which have been reported in the newspaper also, lends credence to the case of complainant/respondent that vehicle in question had a manufacturing defect due to which the airbags did not deploy despite the collision being frontal one and of impact velocity in which it ought to have deployed, coupled with problem relating to burning of clutch plates or emanating smoke about 10 days before the date of accident,” it added.

Accordingly, the NCDRC found no illegality with the State Commission order and dismissed the revision petition. It directed Toyota as well as the dealership to follow the State Commission’s directions within 30 days.

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