Hino Motors and its Australian sales subsidiary Hino Motor Sales Australia (HMSA) are facing a class action proceeding lodged in the Supreme Court of Victoria over the falsification of emissions and fuel economy data in Japan.
Earlier this year, the Japanese truck maker suspended the sale of several vehicles in Japan after admitting to “misconduct” in its fuel emissions tests, blaming “internal pressures” to meet certain targets and deadlines placed on Hino employees.
The class action in Australia, initiated by Gerald Malouf and Partners (GMP Law), seeks compensation on behalf of all Australian purchasers or lessees of the affected Hino vehicles (including the 300, 500, and 700 Series) from as early as 2003.
A media statement from GMP Law says compensatory damages are being claimed against both companies with an additional claim for exemplary or punitive damages against the Japanese parent company.
“It is claimed that the misconduct in relation to emissions and fuel economy of Hino vehicles has caused not only financial loss to consumers of these vehicles but also environmental damage and damage to human health through excess emissions,” said GMP Law.
Matthew Lo, special counsel of GMP Law’s class action division, said the statement of claim alleges two causes of actions against Hino, firstly alleging that Hino had not indicated correctly the capabilities of the vehicles in question.
The second alleges that there has been a non-compliance with emission standards in Australia.
Lo estimates that there could be anywhere between 40,000-50,000 affected vehicles in Australia over the 20-year time frame under investigation.
Lo is hoping for a resolution in two years but adds that legal battles of this nature can take up to six or seven.
“You’d often see a lot of back and forth in legal cases of this kind, and we do expect a big fight ahead,” he said.
Lo says the next stage of the proceedings involves the court procedures required to get the Japanese head company “into the case”, before moving on to the discovery phase.
“The currently available findings are based on the investigations that Hino themselves have done and published, but that initial report by Hino of 1 August 2022 has already been superseded with additional findings being released by Hino on 22 August 2022 indicating additional vehicles affected by the reported misconduct, and that’s not including regulatory investigations in Japan and elsewhere, so we would want to identify the true extent of what has happened,” said Lo.
“Hino themselves have admitted to a variety of misreporting. The issue for us is, what is the extent of that.”
“That’s what court discovery will involve, getting the relevant materials directly from Hino Japan and Hino Motors [Australia] so that we can separately analyse them.”
GMP Law, which is seeking a Group Costs Order from the Supreme Court of Victoria in this case, so that they will not charge legal fees and expenses unless the claim is successful, is prepared to support consumers in the case for the long haul, added Lo.
“We can only commence a case if we believe there is a reasonable chance of success, so we are reasonably confident.”
Meanwhile, GMP Law has also joined forces with US-based legal firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein which is running parallel legal proceedings against Hino USA and Hino Japan in federal court in the US in the Southern District of Florida.
“This is a significant win for consumers affected by Hino,” said David Cossalter, managing Partner of GMP Law.
“The two firms with parallel proceedings against Hino working together will create synergies that better support both cases and achieve better outcomes for all those affected by Hino’s appalling misconduct, in Australia and the US.”
In a statement to Big Rigs, Hino Motor Sales Australia, the distributor of Hino vehicles in Australia, said it acknowledges the statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
“HMSA would like to reiterate that the reported misconduct concerning engine certification in Japan relates to the certification process and does not affect the driveability of the affected vehicles and raises no vehicle safety concerns,” the statement said.
“HMSA is committed to working with dealers and customers about these issues and engaging with the relevant Authorities in Australia.”