For the first time, Toyota has responded to a lawsuit filed against the car maker by Florida consumers who complain their dashboards are melting.
Toyota wants that lawsuit thrown out. Drivers across South Florida, and across the country, have filed consumer complaints about this problem in several Toyota vehicles and in cars made by other manufacturers.
"As soon as you put your fingers to the dashboard and you take them off, it literally melts straight to your fingers," said Lexus owner Matt Hobden, who showed NBC 6 how his fingers turned black when he touched the dashboard of his car.
NBC 6 has heard the same concern from drivers across Florida, such as Audrey Wallace in Pembroke Pines about her 2007 Camry.
"You can see all these black things on top of the dashboard. It’s pieces of the dashboard melting,” said Wallace touching pieces of her dashboard that were the size of small beads.
Consumers complain the surface of their dashboards dissolve into a sticky, oily mess in the heat. Some Florida drivers were so frustrated they filed a suit in July asking Toyota to pay for the damage.
Toyota says the suit should be dismissed because the plaintiff's claims of heat damage happened after the warranty expired.
In court documents, Toyota said, "It is neither ‘unfair’ nor ‘deceptive’ to sell a product that functions exactly as warranted during the warranty period.” They go on to state the company isn’t “lifetime "guarantors" of their products..."
Attorney Juan Bauta, who represents the plaintiff's, said, "Toyota is essentially arguing that once a warranty's done on these vehicles, well, we're done with them…I guess self-destruct because we're out of warranty and we have no obligation to the consumer."
Bauta showed us a log of hundreds of calls he says he’s received in the last few months from drivers with similar complaints. Most are from states in the southern part of the country.
"We get calls every day and it's almost the same factual situation," said Bauta.
Team 6 investigators crunched the numbers. The complaints come mostly from the hot weather states and they’re not just limited to Toyota, but multiple manufacturers, although Bauta says most of his complaints are about Toyota models.
His firm is now trying to get class action status in federal court for the suit he filed against Toyota. He said consumers shouldn't be financially responsible for what he calls Toyota's manufacturing defect.
"Just because the warranty lets out doesn't mean that the manufacturer can design a car that can last 4 years and then buyer beware," said Bauta
Bauta said he will submit a response to Toyota's request to throw out this case within a few weeks. He says his firm is conducting tests to find out why the dashboards are melting and if this problem could affect how air bags deploy.
Toyota says it cannot comment because of the pending litigation.