Toyota Sued This Family Over a Lemon Car. Consumers Struck Back and Won.
What would you do if your family was sued by a massive multinational company over a defective product that you had purchased? Maybe you’d call a lawyer or try to negotiate directly with the company, but what if the lawsuit stuck? Christina Snell and her Army Tank Commander husband faced a lawsuit from Toyota, one of the largest car companies in the world, and won with the help of consumers and a petition. This is how.
In 2013, Christina and her husband bought a car from a Toyota dealership in Georgia. They were assured their car would be covered by warranty if it broke down while stationed in Germany, but within a few months the car broke down numerous times and left Christina stranded.
Their car was deemed unsafe, but Toyota refused to buy it back claiming that because the family is in the military and stationed overseas, Toyota doesn’t have to comply with Georgia’s auto lemon law. Christina’s family won their case in arbitration, but were then sued by Toyota, which appealed the decision in court.
Christina’s lawyer worked hard to tackle the lawsuit but Toyota wouldn’t budge, so she decided to start her Change.org petition in September 2016. Supporters, many of whom identified as Toyota customers, were drawn to Christina’s personal story about the impact the lemon car and the lawsuit had on her family while her husband was serving the country overseas. Within a few days, the petition garnered 80,000 signatures with supporters from every state. Christina’s supporters shared her petition on social media — tagging @Toyota and @ToyotaMotorCorp in their posts until the company was forced to respond.
In October, Toyota issued a controversial public response to the petition, stating that “Toyota does not believe the vehicle must be repurchased” and, saying of the lawsuit, “Toyota is simply appealing an Arbitrator’s decision, as allowed under [Georgia] state law.”
Within hours of the statement’s release, Christina used the petition update tool and Click to Tweet to ask her supporters to demand a better response. In the first hour, a few dozen people tweeted at Toyota’s corporate Twitter account. In the next few hours, hundreds of consumers tweeted at Toyota and many threatened to boycott the company if it didn’t respect military families.
On Tuesday, Christina had amazing news for her supporters — Toyota dropped the lawsuit! After two years of legal battles and sustained pressure from 115,000 consumers, Toyota replaced Christina’s car. This consumer upset isn’t just a win for Christina, but a great victory for thousands of U.S. military families stationed abroad who expect car companies to honor warranties.
Christina’s victory highlights the power of everyday consumers to hold companies accountable and make positive change for people around the world. Become a Change.org member to support other consumer campaigns and victories.