“I was on Edwards Boulevard, E Park Avenue; then I pulled over on Riverside Boulevard. That’s where the car caught fire. I pulled out of my house and smelled smoke. I thought it was possibly the heat as it was a cold morning. The smell, however, never went away. In fact, it got worse. Then I noticed smoke coming out of the trunk area. That’s when I pulled over. I quickly exited the car and called the police. Right after the police phone call is when I started the video.”
Avidane believes the fire started in the high-voltage battery pack because he believes it is there. However, the trunk area has another battery: the 12V unit. The nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) pack is located under the rear seat, close enough to the trunk to give the impression that the fire started there, with the smoke finding its way out in that compartment. At this point, all we know is that the smoke came from the trunk.
We asked the RX450h owner if he had made any changes to the car. This is probably the very first thing Lexus wants to rule out in its investigation. Here’s his response.
“I purchased the car straight from Prestige Lexus in Ramsey, New Jersey, which came directly from the factory. I did not make any changes or modifications to the vehicle, and nothing was installed that could have caused this fire.”
The RX450h for North America is manufactured in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Its fourth generation is codenamed AL20. There is no single recall for this vehicle on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website in any of its model years (2017 until 2022). Avidane contacted Lexus to ask for help.
“They said it will take them two months or more to conduct an investigation and were not able to offer me any loaner car or anything until after the investigation is complete.”
As the pictures show, the insurance company wrote off the car: there’s no way to repair it.
“My insurance company, Travelers, is doing an independent investigation. Originally, they offered me $50 per day for 30 days of a rental car. Now, since they deemed the car a total loss, they are offering me only six days at $50 a day for a rental car. So until the investigation is complete, I will be stuck with the rental car bill for anything over six days.”
Unless Lexus provides him with a loaner or Travelers is quick to pay Avidane the necessary compensation, he will be in a pretty dire situation.
“What's even worse is that I am financing the vehicle. PNC Bank holds the note. They indicated to me that I must continue making payments on the vehicle until it's paid off, or it will affect my credit rating. At a rental car cost of $540 per week, that's $2,160 per month. At that cost, I could be driving a Bentley! Now it seems to me that if I have to wait for this investigation to be complete, it will be way more costly than buying a new car, putting me in a bad position. Not sure what to do.”
Both Lexus and Traveler seem to want to ensure Avidane is not responsible in any way for the fire. If they find he is, they will deny him any pay-out. That must seem incredibly unfair for someone who states he made no changes to the vehicle. After all, Avidane is the one having to pay for a brand new car that turned into a write-off after mysteriously catching fire. He may even have to rent a vehicle with his own money while the investigations take place.
It is no surprise he thinks he should have bought a Tesla instead: at least the EV maker had loaner cars or Uber credits to offer when a vehicle is at the Tesla Service Center. However, in a situation similar to this one Avidane is facing, we are not sure a loaner would apply, even if that should be the case.UPDATE
After autoevolution published this article, Avidane was contacted by all companies. Here's what happened, in his own words:
"Both Lexus and Travelers stepped up to the plate. Travelers called; they finished their investigation, deemed it a complete loss, and will now move into the loss department. After all the paperwork is together, they claim they will reimburse me for the full amount of the vehicle. Furthermore, Travelers offered to extend my rental car for another week. I also got two calls from Lexus. First, from the Prestige Ramsey dealership, offering a loan a car, and then from Lexus Corporate, following up if there was anything else I needed. All parties were completely professional, understanding, and helpful. Therefore, I think it's important to note this in your article.– both companies stepped up, and, as of this moment, I am very satisfied with their response."
@elonmusk - should have went with a #Tesla - my 2022 RX450H Fsport Hybrid with 2000 miles on it. A fire started in the trunk where the lithium battery lives. To date no help whatsoever from Lexus corporate or Lexus dealership. #LexusRX #lexus #toyota pic.twitter.com/OzAxpmQ09v— Milo Avidane (@AvidaneMc) June 3, 2022