Toyota May Face Legal Action Over Continued Prius Electrical Defects
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Toyota May Face Legal Action Over Continued Prius Electrical Defects

Friday, August 10, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn

Toyota’s problems with malfunctioning electrical systems in Prius vehicles is far from over. The safety hazard posed by the defect has been ongoing for seven years and shows no signs of dissipating. Several motorists have been injured as a result of their cars stalling suddenly on highways. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into a petition filed by a Toyota dealer in Southern California requesting a formal investigation. Lawsuits have also been filed against Toyota for damages resulting from defective components that the manufacturer has failed to repair.

The Source of the Defect

The sudden breakdown of Prius cars results from overheating of the vehicle. The inverter modulates the amount of power flowing between the battery and electric motors. If the device becomes overheated, the Prius can completely lose power or enter into “limp-home” mode, which means that car can be operated at low speeds. If the car loses power, it will stall unexpectedly and pose a serious threat to the driver and other motorists. A car that suddenly loses power is considered to have a major safety defect that must be addressed by the manufacturer.

2014 Recall Fails to Address the Problem

Reports of stalling vehicles stretch back several years and led to a safety recall in 2014 that affected almost 800,000 Prius cars manufactured between 2010 and 2014. The car manufacturer had been following the problem since 2011 when its engineers discovered damaged solder joints that had been subject to extensive thermal stress. Under the 2014 recall, Toyota agreed to update the software that is responsible for the inverter and the system’s entire drivetrain computer. But even after dealers completed the software update, the cars continued to experience problems including stalling suddenly on the road. Owners have alleged that Toyota attempted to apply a quick and cheap fix that ultimately failed. The more expensive and appropriate remedy would have been to replace the inverter and the intelligent power module. This repair would have cost around $2000, in contrast with the $80 repair recommended by the car manufacturer.

Accident Reports Transpire and Lawsuits Are Filed

A Florida woman was injured last year when her Prius lost power on a crowded highway and was hit from the back by another driver traveling at high speed. In another collision in 2016, a San Diego driver filed a complaint with the NHTSA after his Prius lost power on a highway and was rear-ended. Lawsuits against Toyota allege that the manufacturer’s remedy did not address the problem. A dealer initiating the lawsuit claims that 100 Priuses were brought back to him with electrical problems after the software was replaced.

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