Toyota faced another round of bad news this week with the announcement today of a probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into braking problems in the popular Prius hybrid model. NHTSA has received at least 124 complaints about momentary braking problems in the defective vehicles. As least four car crashes have been reported. The problems are apparently associated with speed bumps, potholes, and icy roads–three things Massachusetts drivers see plenty of. The investigation concerns the 2010 Prius model year.
The Prius investigation is the third in a string of product defect recalls which are tarnishing Toyota’s reputation for safety and reliability. On top of that, it seems that Toyota has been less than forthright about the problems in its cars. According to CNN (February 4, 1010), “Toyota has known about brake problems in its popular Prius cars for some time, going so far as to fix it in new production vehicles, but has kept Prius drivers in the dark about the problem until the Japanese government called for an investigation.” And the sticking gas pedal was first blamed on floor mats, and then later extended to the mechanics of the pedal itself. The Federal government has now demanded that Toyota demonstrate that the problem isn’t more serious, and that it does not include other parts of the throttle control systems. Defects relating to the gas pedals have been linked to several wrongful deaths.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood set off a brief panic on February 3rd when he said owners of the defective Toyotas should “stop driving them.” He later clarified his statement, saying instead that owners should have them repaired as quickly as possible.
NHTSA itself has been criticized for its slow response to consumer complaints about Toyota acceleration problems, some of which date back to 2003. According to Joan Claybrook, a former head of NHTSA, several investigations were opened, then closed based upon information provided by Toyota. According to NPR, she said, “I think as a result, some people have been killed and injured that wouldn’t have otherwise.” (NPR, Feb 4, 2010.)
This week Toyota finally began shipping replacement parts to dealers for the gas pedal recall. Checks with some dealers in Massachusetts revealed that free rental vehicles are available. If the dealer does not have the part, it should still provide you with a free car should you choose to leave it at the dealer for repair. Many Massachusetts consumers are rightfully fearful that their car could be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
The same courtesy should apply to the defective Prius models, and consumers should feel free to demand that the dealer provide them with a safe, alternative vehicle until their cars are fixed.
Models affected by the recall include:
- 2009-2010 RAV4
- 2009-2010 Corolla
- 2007-2010 Camry
- 2009-2010 Matrix
- 2005-2010 Avalon
- 2010 Highlander
- 2007-2010 Tundra
- 2008-2010 Sequoia
Please see our earlier blog on Toyota recalls for additional safety information.
Much additional information on the Toyota recall is available from the NHTSA website, www.nhtsa.gov.
Answers to Questions About Toyota Repair Plans, NY Times, Feb 1, 2010
US Launches Probe of Prius Brakes, Reuters, Feb 4, 2010
What If You Have Suffered Injury Due to a Defective Toyota?
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury caused by a defective Toyota, contact an experienced product liability attorney as soon as feasible. The defective vehicle should be preserved, unaltered, for later safe inspection. Please call us, toll-free, if you have any questions. 800-379-1244.