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Eversheds comment: Latest Toyota recall puts pressure on Japanese regulator to make new changes

  • United Kingdom

    04-12-2014

    Commenting on reports of upcoming regulatory changes following news that Toyota is expanding its airbag recall in Japan Peter Shervington, expert in product liability at law firm Eversheds, says:

    "The latest news illustrates the great challenges for both manufacturers and regulators as they seek to respond quickly and decisively to protect consumer safety.

    “For Toyota, still reeling from a long line of high profile recalls since the notorious floormat/hybrid system issues which sparked three recalls in quick succession during 2009 and 2010, any suggestion of safety concerns regarding airbags will be a serious headache.

    “Both Toyota and Takata, the inflator manufacturer, will be working hard to understand the issue. Tracking down the root cause is likely to prove challenging, however. There has been only one reported incident, and the fact that it involved an explosion is likely to make evidence difficult to gather. In these circumstances, announcing a recall before the cause had been conclusively identified may prove to be a prudent move. Time is of the essence here, and given its recent track record Toyota will be very conscious of the need to be seen to put consumer safety first.

    “The fact that the Japanese regulator MLITT, one of the strictest in the industry, is considering changing its approach to recall, is a reflection of the increasingly challenging environment in which automotive regulators operate. MLITT will be concerned to ensure that it is able to act quickly and decisively to protect the interests of consumers where safety concerns arise. The rapid sharing of intelligence through social media means consumers are often well aware of safety concerns before regulators take action. There is widespread pressure on regulators to take a more pro-active role in investigating safety risks and to be seen to take action where manufacturers are hesitant. The push for a proactive approach is reflected in reports that MLITT has contacted other manufacturers asking them to investigate. Against this backdrop, it seems unlikely that we have heard the last of airbag inflator-related recalls.”

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