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Toyota’s Flagship, Prius, Mired in Complaints

Numerous owner-reported problems exist, aside from brakes.

by on Feb.08, 2010

Complaints didn't just start with the third-generation Toyota Prius.

The investigation announced last week by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration that it is looking into more than one hundred owner reports about braking problems with the third generation, 2010 model Toyota Prius, is the latest — but by no means the first — investigation covering safety defects with the advanced technology car.

An examination of NHTSA documents and interviews with owners of the flagship Toyota hybrid by reveals that alleged safety issues arose soon after the introduction in 2001 of the advanced, fuel-saving vehicle.

Reports of sudden headlight failures by more than 2,000 Prius owners, and sudden engine shut downs are common in NHTSA records and owner reports.

(Prius owners with complaints should report them to the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or, and Toyota at 800-331-433. Have your VIN number in front of you when you call. )

Complicating our investigation of headlight failures is NHTSA’s granting to Toyota a confidentiality agreement covering warranty data on second-generation Prius models that were failing in apparently large enough numbers that Toyota — under attack then as now for  quality problems — sought secrecy.

Last August, NHTSA not only granted confidentiality, but also closed the investigation of headlight failures that it had just opened in April of 2009 on 2006-2007 Prius  models, concluding that since both headlights didn’t fail together, a safety-related defect didn’t exist.

To those of us who studied medieval Catholic theology, this appears to be similar to reasoning along the lines of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

Then there’s engine stalling or cutouts.

NHTSA investigated Prius stalling in 2004 and 2005 models, and when Toyota said it would reprogram engine control computers on 75,000 of the vehicles, NHTSA dropped the inquiry. Since NHTSA closed the investigation in 2005, complaints continued. There appear to be at least 100 stalling complaints about other Prius models as well.

(Meanwhile, in an exclusive report, reveals the problems with Prius brakes may date back well before the 2010 model-year, for which the announcement of a recall or service action is expected this week. Click Here for that report.)

Small wonder that Toyota and NHTSA face at least two U.S. Congressional hearings on their conduct in safety related matters, which at this point reach far beyond recently raised Prius questions.


The Japanese government is also known to be investigating the Prius for braking failures. And it is predicted that a global recall is immanent of almost 300,000 2010 model-year hybrids, which will require reprogramming of the computer that controls the braking system. (more…)