The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating complaints of engine compartment fires in nearly 1.9 million Toyota RAV4 small sport utility vehicles. According to the Associated Press, federal safety regulators launched the probe after getting 11 fire complaints involving the 2013 through 2018 models. The RAV4 is the top-selling vehicle in the United States, which is not a pickup truck.
What Led to the Investigation?
NHTSA documents posted this week state the fires in these vehicles, according to consumer complaints, start on the left side of the engine compartment. A terminal on the 12-volt battery may short to the frame, causing loss of electric power, engine stalling or a fire. Most of the fires occurred while the vehicles were being driven. However, four owners complained that the fire broke out with the engine off.
Toyota has not said anything about whether the SUVs should be parked outdoors until the matter is resolved, but said the company is cooperating with the probe. A spokeswoman for NHTSA told the Associated Press that the agency is collecting more information from Toyota and will instruct consumers whether or not they should park outdoors depending on what they find out.
NHTSA says improper battery installation or front-end collision repair was a factor in the complaints. The agency says the RAV4 has a higher number of fire complaints in the battery area than comparable vehicles. Investigators say they are trying to better understand what is contributing to the fires. The vehicles are not being recalled just yet. But the investigation could potentially lead to a recall if NHTSA officials find that there is a safety issue.
The Need for Prompt Recalls
Vehicle fires are a serious issue. These types of incidents could result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities triggered by burns and smoke inhalation. We trust NHTSA will conduct a thorough investigation and ask Toyota to issue a recall. However, NHTSA’s investigative process could take several months or even more than that, which means consumers’ lives remain in danger. We hope officials will at least come out with a warning for vehicle owners to park their SUVs outside if that is indeed warranted.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of these or other auto defects, you may be able to file an auto product liability lawsuit seeking compensation for the injuries, damages and losses. An experienced auto defect lawyer will be able to advise victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.