SANTA ANA, Calif. — Southern California Toyota dealer Roger Hogan has prevailed in a lawsuit against the factory, which was ordered to pay $15.8 million for breach of contract with his Claremont and San Juan Capistrano stores.
Hogan sued the automaker in December 2017, alleging retaliation following his efforts to remedy a defect in the electric power systems of the 2010–’14-MY Toyota Prius. He also petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to force the manufacturer to replace the systems’ inverters, claiming factory-issued software failed to properly address the issue, which could lead to overheating under normal driving conditions.
Hogan’s relationship with the factory became contentious in 2011, when he developed Autovation, a safety recall notification system he said improved upon the factory’s. Toyota opposed Hogan’s and other dealers’ use of Autovation, claiming it relied on proprietary data and, as a related and for-profit side business, the system represented a violation of Hogan’s dealer agreements.
Hogan said the system worked too well, costing the factory millions of dollars in warranty work it wanted no part of. In retaliation, the dealer said, his dealerships received the bare minimum allotment of inventory for a two-year period leading up to the lawsuit.
“This is very disheartening to me that this company has come to this point,” Hogan told City News Service. “It breaks my heart. … My philosophy is never put a customer in a car you wouldn’t put your own family in. There’s no amount of money in the world to compensate for a lost family member. It’s just unconscionable, so we drew a line in the sand and the jury found we were justified in our actions and that Toyota concealed certain material facts to us.”
The jury did not find Toyota liable for fraud, which could have incurred punitive damages well in excess of the $15.8 million award. In a statement, factory spokeswoman Christine Henley did not rule out an appeal.
“While we respect the jury’s decision, we remain confident the evidence and testimony clearly demonstrated that Toyota abided by its contractual obligations to the Hogan dealerships and has been transparent with its dealers, regulators and customers regarding the vehicle issues raised at trial. We will consider our options moving forward,” Henley said.
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