Photo: El Dorado National

A Kansas company has agreed to make changes in the procedure it uses to make minivans accessible to wheelchair users after an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

The potential fire and explosion hazards were discovered by the New Jersey agency during its investigation into complaints by a consumer who was concerned about a check engine light in her modified minivan.

The defect was found in Toyota Siena minivans that had been modified for wheelchair accessibility by ElDorado National (Kansas), Inc. The New Jersey consumer had purchased her vehicle from a New Jersey Toyota dealership; it was then shipped to ElDorado for wheelchair accessibility modification.

The Division’s investigation found the same defect and various stages of damage in a total of six ElDorado-modified Toyota Siena minivans in New Jersey. ElDorado said that a total of 82 minivans nationwide were affected.

In response to the Division’s investigation and findings, ElDorado issued a nationwide recall of all affected Toyota Siena minivans that it had modified, and has corrected all defects at no cost to consumers. The company also provided free loaner vehicles to the six affected New Jersey consumers. ElDorado says that it has changed the way it modifies Toyota Siena minivans, in order to prevent similar defects. No injuries were reported as a result of the defects.

"Saved lives"

“Our investigation and swift action potentially saved lives, plain and simple,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “I am very proud of the Division of Consumer Affairs investigators who acted with alacrity to help this consumer, found a potentially deadly problem, and worked with the company to get these vehicles off the roads in New Jersey and across America.”

Division of Consumer Affairs investigators, and an expert mechanic and vehicle inspector contracted by the Division, inspected ElDorado’s correction of the defects. The Division representatives inspected each replacement part, attended the training of ElDorado technicians who would perform the correction, and watched the technicians perform several vehicle corrections.

In the settlement announced today, ElDorado agreed, among other things, to provide consumers with clear and prominent notification about the weight limits of its wheelchair-modified vehicles, as well as the dangers of exceeding those limits. Wheelchair-modified vehicles contain heavy equipment that significantly reduces the total occupant and cargo weight they can safely carry. This safety information will be conspicuously placed in owner’s manuals and hang tags placed on the vehicles.

ElDorado also will develop reporting requirements for its dealerships when they receive complaints from consumers. The dealerships will be required to report all complaints and related information to ElDorado in a timely manner. ElDorado also has paid $10,000 to reimburse the state’s attorney’s fees and investigative costs.

The safety defects came to light after a consumer residing in Monroe Township filed a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs about concerns regarding her Toyota Siena minivan, following its modification by ElDorado.

Fuel filler neck

An independent mechanic and vehicle inspector, contracted by the Division of Consumer Affairs, examined the vehicle and was alarmed to find that its fuel filler neck was coming into contact with the left rear shock absorber, allegedly as a result of ElDorado’s modification.

The fuel filler neck was visibly worn. Damage to a vehicle’s fuel filler neck can allow gasoline or gasoline vapors to escape, potentially resulting in a fire or explosion that could cause injury or death.

In its settlement, ElDorado also agreed that it will continue to comply with all National Highway Transportation Safety Administration laws and regulations, particularly those that pertain to reporting known safety defects and responding to safety concerns.

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