The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

N.J. Reaches Settlement With Minivan Modifier

February 02, 2014

ElDorado had made its modifications to Toyota Sienna minivans. Photo: Toyota.
ElDorado had made its modifications to Toyota Sienna minivans. Photo: Toyota.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has reached a legal settlement with ElDorado National, a Kansas-based company that provided faulty wheelchair-accessibility modifications to six Toyota Sienna minivans in the state.

After a check-engine light prompted one New Jersey consumer to file a complaint with Consumer Affairs, a division probe identified a fire hazard associated with the modification. The same defect was later found in five other ElDorado-modified Toyota Sienna minivans in New Jersey. This eventually prompted a nationwide recall of 82 minivans.

No injuries were reported as a result of the defects.

Consumer Affairs received the initial complaint from a woman in Monroe Township, and then hired an independent mechanic and vehicle inspector to examine her modified minivan. The problem was identified as a fuel filler neck coming into contact with the left rear shock absorber. The fuel filler neck was visibly worn, creating the potential for gasoline or gasoline vapors to escape and pose a fire hazard.

To remedy the problem, ElDorado made the necessary repairs to all the recalled minivans at no cost to the vehicle owners. The company also changed its modification procedure for wheelchair accessibility.

As part of the announced settlement, ElDorado paid $10,000 to reimburse the state for attorney and investigative costs associated with the case. The company also agreed to notify its customers about the weight limits of its wheelchair-modified vehicles and the dangers of exceeding those limits. Wheelchair-modified vehicles contain heavy equipment that sharply reduces the total occupant and cargo weight they can safely carry. This safety information will be conspicuously placed in owner’s manuals and hangtags placed on the vehicles.

Additionally, ElDorado agreed to develop reporting requirements for its dealerships when they receive complaints from consumers. The dealerships will report all complaints and related information to ElDorado in a timely manner. ElDorado also agreed to comply with all federal laws and regulations that pertain to reporting known safety defects and responding to safety concerns. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General announced these details of the settlement.

“Our investigation and swift action potentially saved lives, plain and simple,” said John J. Hoffman, acting attorney general for New Jersey. “I am very proud of the Division of Consumer Affairs investigators who acted with alacrity to help this consumer, found a potentially deadly problem, and worked with the company to get these vehicles off the roads in New Jersey and across America.”

Eric T. Kanefsky, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, praised ElDorado for the company’s response once the safety hazards were identified.

“I commend ElDorado for cooperating with us in order to correct these defects and provide for the safety of their current and future customers,” Kanefsky said.

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