NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers were sued Wednesday in a California federal court over “deadly” keyless ignition systems that are linked to serious injuries and more than 13 deaths in the United States.
The class action complaint says drivers, used to traditional keys, have unknowingly left their car running in their garage and filled their home with deadly carbon monoxide gas, such as a 29-year-old woman who died in 2010 when her 2006 Lexus IS 250 was left running.
In cars with the keyless ignition system, drivers can start and turn off the car with the push of a button while an electronic key fob is nearby.
“Reasonable drivers, including plaintiffs, misunderstand the role of the keyless fob in turning off the vehicles,” the complaint says. “This so-called convenience has produced deadly consequences in the absence of adequate safeguards.”
Besides Toyota, Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., FCA US LLC, Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., BMW AG, Volkswagen AG, and Daimler AG were named as defendants.
While many cars have warning sounds, the complaint says automakers should install an “auto-off” system that automatically turns off cars left unattended after a certain period of time.
It cites 27 complaints to U.S. auto safety regulators about the issue where consumers called for an automatic shut-off switch.
“There needs to be a change in design that turns off the engine when the key fob leaves the vehicle and the engine off button is depressed,” one such complaint said from a person who left a 2011 Toyota Camry running for 90 minutes in an attached garage and felt sick from carbon monoxide fumes.
The complaint asks for automakers to declare keyless ignition switch systems without an “auto-off” mechanism defective, install such a mechanism, and compensate car owners.
“The automakers failed to properly consider the ramifications of eliminating the physical and psychological connection between the vehicle and physical keys,” the complaint says. “The confusion can have deadly consequences.”