Class actions prompted by unintended acceleration allegations may continue to hound Toyota for decades, as what Audi of America has had to handle for around 25 years. Audi is still fighting a version of the original class action filed 25 years ago, involving 300,000 units of the 1978-86 Audi 5000.
Although the company was exonerated by Transport Canada in 1988 and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1989 of unintended acceleration allegations, the battle against the carmaker continues. Despite numerous flip-flops, wins and losses, six amended complaints were filed and legal battle still remains as new lawyers inherit the cases from their older counterparts.
As a matter of fact, Tom McDonald, Audi's public relations manager during the sudden acceleration days, recently received a notice from Audi's outside counsel that he might be deposed to testify in the case. According to McDonald, he could be asked to testify on something he might have said publicly or wrote in a press release back then. McDonald said that the “story is never going to go away." McDonald worked for Volkswagen of America, Audi of America's parent, in 1989.
Compared to Audi, Toyota’s legal problems could be 33 times larger as it involves more than 10 million vehicles across numerous nameplates, due to sudden acceleration issues brought by sticky gas pedals and floor mats that could jam gas pedals. McDonald is seeing history repeating itself with Toyota. He told Autonews that what happened with Toyota now and Audi then are remarkably similar. He likewise cited some similarities like the media treatment and the way they jump to conclusions and blame the company without the full benefit of technical details.