Toyota Hit with Lawsuit Alleging ‘Defective’ Panoramic Sunroofs

Toyota is the most recent major vehicle manufacturer, along with Mercedes and Nissan, to face a lawsuit alleging “defective” panoramic sunroofs on certain models. All three lawsuits deliver similar arguments and point to the complexity that comes with manufacturing the panoramic option as opposed to run-of-the-mill sunroofs, as well as the use of tempered glass.

The plaintiffs allege in documentation filed with the court that the panoramic sunroofs on a number of Nissan vehicles have a “defect.” They and their cited experts contend that the design of the sunroofs make them vulnerable to fracturing or shattering under normal driving conditions.

The plaintiffs in the Mercedes case allege that vehicles with panoramic sunroofs suffer from a design, manufacturing and/or materials defect whereby their panoramic sunroofs will spontaneously shatter under normal driving conditions, creating a safety hazard for the vehicle occupants and surrounding traffic. Plaintiffs also note in the complaint the engineering challenges that come with glass replacing sheet metal on the roof. According to the complaint, panoramic sunroofs add mass at the top of the vehicle, raise a vehicle’s center of gravity, and must maintain structural integrity through bumps, jolts and more.

Now, two California plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit in Texas that makes similar allegations with respect to Toyota’s 2021 RAV4. Toyota Motor North America is headquartered in Plano, Texas.

“Historically, automobile glass sunroofs or moonroofs have been modestly sized, spanning just a small portion of the roof over the driver and front passenger seats,” the plaintiffs write in their complaint. “Panoramic roofs are larger, command a premium price and replace metal roofs with large plates of glass.”

The plaintiffs also note that the panoramic option for the RAV4 runs customers an additional $10,000. It’s further alleged that the vehicle in question contains one or more defects in the way it’s manufactured.

According to the plaintiffs, “on information and belief,” Toyota makes its panoramic sunroofs out of tempered glass. While the final product is stronger than non-tempered glass, plaintiffs say that a compromised outer layer still results in the entire glass piece shattering “explosively.” The plaintiffs in the Mercedes case also allege, “on information and belief,” that Mercedes uses tempered glass for its panoramic sunroofs as well. The same can be said of the plaintiffs in the Nissan lawsuit.

“Upon information and belief, the glass roof defect occurs due to either deficient materials used to make the panoramic roof itself, and/or deficient manufacturing processes, and/or a deficiency in the structure of the Class Vehicles,” Plaintiffs write in their complaint against Toyota.

According to the complaint, more than 100 motorists have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with respect to the alleged issue. As with the Mercedes and Nissan cases, the plaintiffs in the Toyota case say that the shattering of the sunroof is akin to the sound of a gunshot, after which glass could rain down on vehicle occupants.

It is also alleged that Toyota “has refused” to repair or replace the sunroofs under warranty, and that replacement panoramic sunroofs are also defective. One of the plaintiffs says their panoramic sunroof has already exploded twice. Another plaintiff says that their panoramic sunroof shattered only one month after she purchased the vehicle.

Plaintiffs allege breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment and more.

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