The Subaru Corporation is among the leading vehicle dealers in the world. The Japanese giant has several subsidiaries worldwide, the most pronounced ones being Subaru America and Subaru Asia. Since it came to the market, the company has been embroiled in several lawsuits. Most of them have been class lawsuits. Subaru has been embroiled in legal tussles with its competitors occasionally. This article will discuss the ten most significant Subaru lawsuits in company history.
10. Subaru vs. the South Coast Subaru (California), A Case of a Dealer Falsifying Customer Survey Reports
To demonstrate that it can hold its dealers accountable, Subaru sued one of them (South Coast Subaru, California) in 2015 for falsifying customer satisfaction surveys. The parent company alleged that the dealer’s agents had just gathered after a lunch break and falsified reports. They then provided Subaru with email addresses alleged to be from customers they had interacted with. Indeed, Subaru established that the dealer sent emails to employees, not customers.
The employees were then instructed to fill in the forms and resubmit. The fraud scheme claimed that the dealer had received 224 responses in 2014 alone. Subaru later discovered that the surveys were false because they had been sent from an IP address in South Coast Acura, a separate dealer of the same group. The plaintiff was very vigorous in establishing that the dealer had violated its contractual obligations. Several media houses later confirmed the claims, and the two parties chose to set the matter quietly though it has severe ramifications on the PR image of the defendant.
9. Joy Diane Shuey and Others vs. Servo Subaru, A Case of Rodents Chewing the Subaru’s Soy Wires
In one of the ridiculous lawsuits against Subaru in 2017, the plaintiff, with others, alleged that Subaru was using soy-based insulation on the fuel lines and wiring, knowing that they are biodegradable and less expensive than the traditional ones. The case included all those who had bought Subaru vehicles from 2013 to 2021. Several plaintiffs argued that they would experience numerous vehicle failures because rodents had eaten their cars’ systems wires and would incur losses repairing them. When the lead plaintiff emailed Subaru of America, she was instructed to contact Servo Subaru in Honolulu, Hawaii, because the former never supplied vehicles in her jurisdiction. The plaintiffs sought the prayers that Subaru be compelled to stop using soy wires, for they posed a fuel leaking threat and a mechanical failure.
8. Adnan and Others vs. Subaru Corporation, The Denso Fuel Pump Case
In 2016, Denso Fuels admitted that its pumps had plastic impellers that “may be swelled due to the fuel and water contained in the fuel…” The plaintiffs argued that a recall of 188,000 vehicles did not include all the vehicles affected by the Denso Fuel Pumps. The lawsuit filed in July 2020 sought to have Subaru reimburse customers the prices of all models equipped with the low-pressure fuel pumps, including the pumps with the part number 42022.
Subaru recalled the 2019 Impreza, Outback, Legacy, and Ascent vehicles in April 2020 to replace fuel pumps, which had impellers that could absorb fuel and cause damage to the pumps. According to Adnan, the same problem is still reflected in cars released in 2013, and it still existed up to the date of the suit. They were alleging that Subaru should recall all the affected vehicles. The matter before Judge Jude Rodríguez was partially dismissed because some plaintiffs had not proved that they had experienced the fuel pump problems. The Judge felt that it would be imperative to issue a blanket order over the matter.
7. The Subaru Unintended Acceleration Problems Claus Lawsuit (The Westons et al. vs. Subaru case)
In May 2020, several plaintiffs filed a case at the U.S District Court of New Jersey alleging that the 2012-2018 Subaru Forester, 2015-2019 Subaru Legacy, and 2015-2019 Subaru Outback had defects that resulted in unintended acceleration. The Westons reported that they had to apply brakes on several occasions to slow down their 2014 Subaru Forester, which would accelerate itself. In one instance, they argued that they lost control, hit a guardrail, and overturned. One other plaintiff alleged that her Subaru Forester would accelerate faster, making her so afraid of driving it that she ended up selling it.
In addition, another plaintiff alleged that his 2018 Subaru Forester would accelerate faster when he was parking and hit a fence, making him incur $800 in repairs. The conjoined suit alleged that Subaru had been receiving these complaints since 2011. The unintended acceleration posed safety hazards to drivers, occupants, and pedestrians. In response, the Subaru dealers accused the drivers of placing floor mats that may cause acceleration problems, but that would be wrong, in the eyes of plaintiffs, because that is a standard practice in the automotive industry. The matter is still pending, awaiting a jury determination.
6. Salcedo vs. Subaru of America, The Engine Failure Class Lawsuit
Salcedo and others sued Subaru in 2017 for the “premature engine failure” of the 2017-2017 Subaru Impreza, WRX, and STi with EJ-Series 2.5 – liter turbocharged engine. The two lawsuits were later consolidated, and they alleged that Subaru was aware of the engine failures. They argued that the defect caused the rod connecting the engine and main bearing to fail faster than expected. According to their analysis, they were incurring an average repair cost of $6,000 for just one Subaru Impreza.
Class members argued that the defect would be more pronounced just after the expiry of the cars’ warranty, leaving them with no choice other than incurring the cost. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Subaru agreed to settle the matter by extending the affected vehicles’ powertrain warranty to 8 years/ 100 000 miles. In addition, Subaru reimburses the repair costs for any affected class member upon the provision of proof that they incurred them. The average costs ranged from $3,500 to $6,000.The settlement proposed that the deadline for claiming compensation was 05/22/2019.
NB: Each car owner was paid independently ($3,500- $6,500), and the fact that Subaru extended the vehicle’s warranty for eight years, the total value of the lawsuit is yet to be determined depending on these variables.
5. Keith Yeager and others vs. Subaru of America, An Oil Consumption Lawsuit
In July 2014, Keith Yeager and Michael Schuler sued Subaru, alleging that it knowingly sold cars that burned oil at a higher rate because of their defective piston rings. They would later be joined by other petitioners who argued the same. The cars of concern were the 2011-2014 Subaru Forester, 2013 Subaru Legacy, 2013 Subaru Outback, 2012-2013 Subaru Impreza, and 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek. In addition, the class lawsuit alleged that Subaru was aware of the problems because all the plaintiffs had formally complained to the car dealer about the same problem.
They centered on the fact that they were using an average of $8,000 to replace the defective rings. In conceding, Subaru promised to improve its complaint management system regarding oil consumption. It promised to undertake a free ‘oil consumption test’ for affected car owners and extend their warranty to 8 years/10,000 miles. Moreover, Subaru consented that it was to compensate for any problem the car owners would incur due to excessive oil consumption. The compensation included but was not limited to costs of repairs, towing costs, and money they had spent on renting alternative cars.
NB: The total amount paid in this case remains in Subaru’s knowledge because it chose to email each affected car owner, informing them that they spent their bills rather than setting a public figure to be shared.
4. Dustin Dalen and Others vs. Subaru America, Subaru Battery Drain Action Lawsuit
The Collision Repairmag.com reported that on May 11, 2022, Subaru had agreed to pay 13 plaintiffs each $4,000 as damages fee for defects in its cars that caused the battery to drain. Dustin Dalen filed the case in 2022, and 12 other plaintiffs would later join. They alleged that the cars of concern were the 2015-2020 Subaru Outback, 2015-2020 Subaru Forester, 2015-2020 Subaru Legacy, 2015-02020 Subaru WRX, and 2019-2020 Subaru Ascent.
They argued that the cars’ software errors failed to prevent their Controller Area Network (CAN) from entering sleep mode when drivers switched them off, thus making the battery drain even when the vehicle was not running. In its response, Subaru alleged that the claims were incorrect for their vehicles’ functioning correctly and that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated any of the statutes they had broken. Apart from the monetary payment, the court ordered Subaru to pay the total cost of replacing the first battery for up to 5 years or 96 560 kilometers from the date of sale. In addition, Subaru is to extend the warranty of any affected vehicles by three years if they surpass the five-year/ 96,560 kilometers warranty. However, they only cater for 50 percent of the first battery replacement cost in this case.
NB: The total cost for this lawsuit is difficult to determine now because the orders issued in the ruling are still under implementation.
3. Khona and Others vs. Subaru of America, A Case of Cracked Windshields. ($515,000 plus Compensation Fee)
According to Carcomplaints.com, Subaru agreed to settle a cracked windshield lawsuit for the 2015-2016 Subaru Outback and Legacy. Khona and friends alleged that the company had “fraudulently misinterpreted the nature and scope” of its 2015 windshield problem when extending the warranty from three to five years. The extension was based on Subaru’s TSB, which alleged that through its internal investigation, it had established that the failures were caused “by the ceramic materials used for the black-colored printed perimeter combined with the silver-colored material used for the wiper deicer portion of the windshield glass.”
The company had communicated that the extension was only limited to the windshield deicer and the damage to the lower deicer areas. The plaintiffs argued that Subaru was using dealers who would ensure it did not meet the warranty costs. After lengthy deliberations, Subaru conceded to extending the warranty to 8 years for one replacement of the original windscreen, which cracked at the deicer area. The company agreed to pay the plaintiffs representative a $515,000 legal fee and incur all the replacement costs.
2. Class Lawsuit Against Subaru Starlink – $6.25 million
In July 2020, a judge signed a class lawsuit resolution that Subaru had to pay $6.25 million to about 785,000 users of different Subaru Starlink. The settlement emanated from a class lawsuit by its customers alleging that Starlink had defective infotainment systems. The company acknowledged that their 2018 Subaru Forester, 2018 Crosstrek, 2018 Subaru Outback, 2017-2018 Subaru Impreza, 2018 Legacy, and 2018 BRZ had defects raised by the plaintiffs.
In general, the cars’ users had complained that they were experiencing problems related to the failure of backup cameras, the complete system locks up, failure of the audio functions, inability to switch off the radio and regulate radio volume when they were reversing, and the cars’ volume being extremely high when one turned it on than the level it was when it was switched off, Bluetooth connectivity problems, unresponsive touch screens and failure to be compatible with some smartphones instructions.
The initial seven plaintiffs were awarded each $3,500 as general damage costs, $16 per each day the Subaru team will take to repair the defects, and $90 as costs they incurred to procure alternative means of transport. While conceding, Subaru’s representatives argued that they only agreed to the matter not because they were guilty but because they were geared toward customer satisfaction.
1. Takata vs. Subaru & Others, The Airbag Recall Case – $68.3 million
In one of the most successful lawsuits against motor vehicle companies, Toyota, Subaru, BMW and Mazda, and others agreed to settle a $553 million lawsuit in which they had been sued to compensate the car owners whose vehicles had been recalled to replace the Takata airbags. Each company paid a good share of the total amount, with Subaru paying $68.3 million. The NHTSA had flagged the Takata airbags because they had been inflated with a metal cartridge with propellant wafers that, in some cases, had ignited with explosive force.
According to the safety assessment by NHTSA, the metal strands from the airbag would be sprayed throughout the cabin, making them a potential risk to the driver in case of any collision. Further, the NHTSA determined that the airbags used aluminum-nitrate-based propellant without a chemical to dry, increasing the possibility of explosive reactions in them, especially when one traveled for long or the car was exposed to high temperatures.
From a precise analysis of the cases against Subaru, one will realize that they mainly dwell on the component nature of the vehicles rather than a widespread violation of other parties’ rights. In addition, each subsidiary of the Subaru Corporation is sued independently, with Subaru America being the most targeted.