Arthur's Lexus (Photo credit: Arthur)
In October, Toyota recalled423,000 Lexus cars and SUVs to fix a fuel line problem that the company said could start a fire. This came as no surprise to a Lexus owner named Arthur, who was kind enough to send us a photo of his Lexus, now a burned-out shell.

"Lexus lies," Arthur fumed, noting the line in the recall notice that said: "The company says it is unaware of any fires, crashes, injuries or fatalities caused by this condition."

Arthur is not the only consumer who notified Lexus about fires involving the fuel line prior to the recall.

"My 2002 Lexus caught fire while I was driving on the freeway. The fire department said it was the fuel injection that caused the fire," said Geraldine of Healdsburg, Calif., in a 2005 complaint to ConsumerAffairs. "Lexus service are the only people that have worked on my car and the only people that even lifted my hood. They will take no responsibility re: this loss."

Out of pocket

Geraldine said that after the fire, she bought a new Lexus and, after insurance, wound up $8,000 out of pocket.

"I surely thought Lexus would pay me the amount I had to use to purchase a new car. They offered me $250."

Geraldine didn't specify what model her 2002 Lexus was but some 2002 models were included in the recall. But since her fire occurred in 2005, prior to the recall, Lexus might still refuse to pay. Generally speaking, automakers don't pay for fire damage, which is covered by the consumer's insurance company. 

And, alas, it's probably too late for Geraldine to sue since the statute of limitations has probably run. She should check with a California attorney.

Similar fires have also been reported in models not included in the recall.

"I did own a 1996 Lexus GS300 a few days ago," said "A" of Adkins, Texas in a 2008 complaint. "My daughter-in-law borrowed it to go and pick up my 3-year-old granddaughter, returned home 20 minutes later." Five minutes later, A said, she noticed the car was on fire.

"She called the fire department and we both got way from it and watched it totally burn up," "A" said.

What to do

What should consumers do when they experience an incident that may be indicative of a safety defect?

The first step is to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Such complaints can eventually lead to a recall. Consumers should also contact an experienced attorney, especially if there has been a death or injury associated with the problem. 

It's also important to keep a detailed record of the problem and any attempted repairs.

The incidents, of course, also illustrate the importance of seeing to it that you follow through if your car is recalled. The recall came too late for the consumers profiled in this story but often, accidents occur because cars were not taken in for repairs even after a recall was issued. 

Share your Comments