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The newly announced BMW X5 eDrive Concept will debut in Frankfurt next month. (BMW)
The newly announced BMW X5 eDrive Concept will debut in Frankfurt next month. (BMW)

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Toyota settles class-action lawsuit Add to ...

Toyota Canada has reached an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit surrounding the potential loss of value experienced by owners and lessees after its various 2009 and 2010 brake pedal and unintended acceleration-related recalls.

The settlement, reportedly one of the largest in Canadian class action history, could provide benefits to approximately 1.4 million Toyota and Lexus owners across the country. If approved by courts in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, all eligible owners will be entitled to receive the free installation of a Brake Override System (BOS). Failing that, a cash payment of $62.50 will be offered for vehicles that can’t be equipped with BOS.

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Toyota Canada will also offer a customer support program for owners that will correct defects in materials or workmanship related to the electronic throttle control for at least three years after the final settlement’s approval, up to a maximum of 240,000 kilometres or 10 years after the factory warranty expires, whichever comes first.

The company has also agreed to fund research into automotive safety at four as-yet-unnamed Canadian engineering schools to the tune of $600,000, an amount that will include scholarships and make relevant U.S. research available in Canada in the areas of active safety, driver attention and vehicle control.

The brake override system will be installed to “fix the unintended acceleration problem,” according to the suit’s official toyotaelsettlement.ca site for potential claimants. Toyota Canada maintains that its electronic throttle control systems are safe, but is moving to settle the case to ensure renewed customer confidence.

“Reliable scientific evidence and multiple independent evaluations have confirmed the safety of Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems,” said Toyota in a statement. “The benefits provided to Canadian customers under the economic loss settlement agreement are intended to further demonstrate that consumers can continue to be confident in their vehicles and count on Toyota to stand behind its products.”

Vehicles eligible for benefits span in age from the 1998 Lexus GS, LS and LX SUV, through to most Lexus and Toyota vehicles throughout at least part of the years between 2001 and 2010, including previously ineligible but wide-selling models such as the 2009-2010 Corolla and 2006-2010 RAV4. Toyota Canada had previously agreed to install BOS on 2007-2010 non-hybrid Camry and Lexus ES 300 models, as well as on the related Avalon and Venza CUV, among others.

In December, 2012, Toyota’s U.S. arm announced the settlement of a similar class-action suit for American Toyota customers, estimating a pre-tax charge against earnings of $1.1-billion (U.S.), as well as for other civil suits brought against the company by various district attorneys in multiple states.

Plug-ins, 4-Series new X5to highlight BMW’s debuts

BMW will feature plug-in hybrids heavily on its Frankfurt show stand next month, when the production i3, the newly announced X5 eDrive Concept, and the Concept Active Tourer Outdoor plug-in will all make their auto show world debuts, BMW confirmed recently.

The production version of its i8 supercar is also expected to make its world debut there, though there’s not much suspense over its shape or that of the i3, given their many appearances in “concept” form at auto shows and preview events worldwide.

The production X5 SUV and 4-Series will also debut, BMW confirmed, and there’s a good chance that the German luxury car maker will bring out the aggressive ‘Concept’ version of the M4 first seen at the Pebble Beach Concours in California earlier this month.

The X5 to debut in Frankfurt will be the third-generation model, and though few details have officially been confirmed, BMW did release images of the X5 eDrive Concept. A flatter nose and wider headlamps suggest a 3-Series-like makeover for all versions of the next X5. This X5 PHEV offers full electric driving to 120 km/h, up to 30 km of all-electric driving, and an overall average of 3.8 litres/100 km, said BMW, all amazing figures compared to the often-thirsty current X5, even if they are optimistic European numbers.

Tesla Model S tops U.S. crash ratings

The Tesla Model S achieved the best crash test ratings of any vehicle tested by the U.S. government, the California-based electric vehicle maker trumpeted recently, scoring five stars in all areas, and an overall “Vehicle Safety Score” higher than even larger SUVs and minivans.

Although the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing doesn’t publish scores above five stars, this Vehicle Safety Score provided to manufacturers after the crash tests do capture ratings higher than five, argued the company. Based on this number, the Model S achieved a combined 5.4 stars, a new record for the highest overall safety score after all of the NHTSA’s tests (on front, side, and rear collisions, and rollover risk), the company said.

“Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants,” the company said in a release.

Not so fast, shot back the NHTSA, in a statement that didn’t mention Tesla by name, but was obviously aimed at the audacious EV Silicon Valley firm.

“NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond five stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories,” said the safety agency statement, issued days after Tesla’s announcement. “In addition, the agency has guidelines in place for manufacturers and advertising agencies to follow to ensure that accurate and consistent information is conveyed to the public.”

The NHTSA did not dispute Tesla’s statement that it achieved five stars in all tested areas and subcategories, a feat achieved in only 1 per cent of all vehicles crash-tested by the agency since stricter rules to score five stars came into effect in 2011. Tesla says it paid particular attention to rear safety in vehicles equipped with the two rear-facing jump seats, and installs a double bumper with extra rear crash protection in all its vehicles so equipped.

But the Los Angeles Times reported that NHTSA has not tested similarly priced luxury sedans. The government agency tests about 85 per cent of the available vehicles in the U.S. – up from closer to 65 per cent a few years ago – and doesn’t test most luxury vehicle rivals to the Model S for cost reasons. This is because the agency focuses on vehicles with the highest sales, new technology or unique safety features, meaning vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Audi’s A7 and A8 have not yet been crashed and rated.

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