J.D. Power Study: Toyota Prius Is Most Dependable Compact Car

High-profile media reports of runaway cars give the impression that the Toyota Prius is unsafe and undependable. However, the hard data tells a different story. J.D. Power—the auto industry’s top source for information about vehicle dependability—yesterday reported that among compact cars, the Toyota Prius had the fewest numbers of problems experienced per 100 vehicles over the past three years.

Toyota Prius Shipment />

This marks the third year in a row that Prius took the top spot in the study.

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles, includes 198 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. The 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 52,000 original owners of 2007 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2009—prior the most publicized reports of Prius unintended acceleration.

The negative impact of recalls on perceptions of dependability apparently did not affect the Toyota Prius in J.D. Power’s 2010 study. Complaints to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by car owners commonly increase after automakers announce plans for recalls. Lars Perner, professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California, told Associated Press, “When people expect problems, they’re more likely to find them.”

Human Error?

It remains to be seen how the negative publicity will influence next year’s study. But there’s mounting evidence that the most publicized Prius accidents involving unintended acceleration were caused by human error—not bad brakes or acceleration pedals. “Information retrieved from the vehicle’s onboard computer systems indicated there was no application of the brakes and the throttle was fully open,” NHTSA said Thursday in a statement about a Harrison, N.Y., crash. NHTSA officials said the findings mean the accident was caused by the driver, most likely because she pressed the accelerator instead of the brake.

Toyota’s investigation of the March 8 incident, in which 61-year-old James Sikes claimed his 2008 Prius reached speeds of more than 90 miles an hour on its own on a San Diego freeway, found no evidence to back up the claim. The investigation showed the brakes and accelerator had been applied more than 250 times. Toyota said its investigation resulted in findings “inconsistent” with the driver’s account. The company is also trying to discredit a report by ABC News, in which a professor demonstrated how a Toyota vehicle could speed out of control. It was later revealed that the report used incorrect staged footage and that the professor was being paid by a consultant to lawyers who are suing Toyota.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has also been examining Sikes’s 2008 Prius, said that testing might not be able to reproduce the incident. “We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car,” the agency said in a statement.

Public Perception

Sales of the 2010 Toyota Prius fell by 6 percent in February compared to the previous month—but were up by about 10 percent compared to one year ago.

Future sales trends will be determined by how well consumers are able to distinguish between sensational reports of isolated accidents—regardless of their cause—versus detailed analysis of the experiences of tens of thousands of owners over a multi-year period.


  • David Lemons

    Is JD Power for real? Seriously, its all about ad and product placement with these so called Automotive Industry publications and awards. Crash ratings? How much does the manufacturer pay the publication to publish these stories. Most certainly, this isn’t free ad time for their product!

  • Charles

    David, I agree. One of the first things I thought after reading “J.D. Power—the auto industry’s top source for information about vehicle dependability”, was what about Consumers Union’s Consumer Reports. I think the CR sample is the largest in the industry.

  • dv

    So what the hell are you saying? that Toyota is now paying off these publications for positive press.
    God that is crazy!!! Toyota makes the safest and most dependable cars on the road. And the Prius is one of the safest. Stupid people doing stupid things is the problem.

  • Anonymous

    JD Power’s dependability studies and power information network is an industry standard. The company is part of McGraw-Hill. If they took bribes to trump up their studies, their business wouldn’t last long. They are simply reporting what 50,000+ owners said in surveys. Maybe the Prius drivers were forgiving with technical problems, because they like their hybrids. But it doesn’t make sense to question JDP’s motives.

  • Anonymous

    It is amazing how ill informed the american consumer is.

    If you think that JD Power is taking bribes, you do not understand that they just report out on what consumers tell them.

    Perhaps the US Government takover of GM has more to due with the demonizing of Toyota and less to do with the quality of their vehicles. Funny, with all the problems of most of the GM brands, I don’t see hard questions being asked of them. Oh, I forgot that would be like criticizing yourself, think about it.

  • Toyota Highlander 2010

    The NHTSA said in a statement issued yesterday that the onboard computer systems in the Prius “indicated there was no application of the brakes, and the throttle was fully open.”

    Lee Anderson

  • Josey

    All these anti-Toyota sycophants might get lucky again and have the Feds bail them out – they can trade in their 2009 US-made clunkers for a 2010 US-made.

  • Shines

    Charles, if you are right that Consumer Reports has the largest sample in the industry then you might as well point out that according to Consumer Reports the Prius has had very high reliability for years and one of the highest owner satisfaction ratings and one of the lowest cost of ownership ratings. I do not own a Prius but I subscribe to Consumer Reports – which never takes advertisiing money and never allows their ratings to be used for any advertizing.

  • Charles

    Shines,

    I should also point out that my SO owns a 2006 Prius, I subscribe to Consumer Reports and that I recommended that she (my SO) buy the Prius. My personal experience with the Prius is that it is a very reliable and economical car. Every family that can afford one, should own one.

    If J. D. Power says it is a good car, that is fine, but if CR does not, I will not consider the vehicle. The not taking advertising and huge survey numbers for CR trumps J. D. Power for me.

  • Chris353

    CHP officer report: “the Prius came to a stop by itself”

    “I moved up directly in front of the Prius and matched its speed. I was preparing for the Prius to drive up against my rear bumper and make contact. As I looked in my rearview mirror, I noticed the Prius speed had dropped dramatically. The speedometer on the patrol vehicle indicated we had slowed to approximately 50 MPH. Shortly thereafter, the Prius came to a stop by itself in the #1 lane after veering left from the #2 lane. I stopped as well and backed up to make contact with the front bumper. I placed my patrol vehicle’s rear bumper against the Prius front bumper to prevent further movement. Neither the patrol vehicle nor the Toyota Prius sustained any external body damage.”

    The above is from the CHP report and it clarifies the events:
    I am thinking, after driving “out of control” for 20 minutes, how did the car became very controllable, even with worn out brakes, as it was about to hit the patrol car? I think Sykes lost his nerve, when his car was closing up against the patrol car and ended his deception.

  • scolas

    Does J.D. Power use different criteria for determining the vehicile’s class than EPA? I notice they list it as a compact and Toyota goes out of its way to claim it’s a mid-size.

    I will agree my 04 Prius is trouble free. All I’ve done in over 100k miles is self oil changes and I put in new brakes at 90k. My only complaint is the tires seem to wear out every 30k or so. They wear even so I don’t think the alignment is off. Maybe the regen brakes cause more friction or they are just crappy tires.

  • cjcold

    I doubt that I am some sort of psychic, but I felt the same way about the “balloon boy” story and the Iraq WMD story (as well as many others I was later proved correct on) as I did about the runaway prius stories from the start. For some intangible reason, some stories just don’t “feel” right.

  • JOC

    The tires were designed to provide greater mpg, unfortunately this effect was/is not compatible with tire wear. The tire industry has been trying to resolve this problem. If you put tires on with longer life you end up decreasing mpg. I don’t know exactly how much of a loss.

  • Max Reid

    All these buzz will make Prius more popular. In Japan they sold 49,000 units in Jan & Feb 2010.

    Gas prices are at $2.81 / gallon and spring is here, as it increases the sales of Prius will also increase. I wish they bring their base Prius-I model which will cost 22K and will be an ideal fit for Cabs.

  • Mr.Bear

    Isn’t the Prius a mid-size? Barely, but it is.

    JD looks at owner surveys. With more than one million cars on the road, odds are you can survey 50,000 Prius owners and not find someone who has had a problem.

  • Scott Thomas

    Now Honda, All Car Companies should have came forward with a full disclosures of what car were dangerous. Instead of waiting for a huge media blitz and tons of public pressure. I never seen so many car companies GM – NISSAN – TOYOTA – HYUNDAI having recalls all at the same time. I had no idea my car was affected until I looked on http://www.carpedalrecall.com and found I had a bad Anti Lock control unit on my 2008 Pontiac G8 , my co workers Ford Truck had a recall also. So be careful

  • Randy

    And the NHTSA has kissed Toyota’s butt for years, that is why they are in this mess.

  • Max Reid

    Despite a $3 decrease in oil price on thursday & friday, the gas prices keep increasing and is at $2.82 / gallon.

    I hope Toyota will come out of recall issue and start selling Prius in higher numbers. Without any competition from Insight or any other model, Prius is holding a higher base price of 22.8K.

    May be if Ford comes out with a lower priced hybrids, Toyota will respond.

  • john mag

    lemmon and charles are idiots. i bet if it ranked your gm suv,you`re stuck with,would be raving about how this proves gm cars are the best

  • Anonymous

    prius is a mid size car when salesman want to earn a buck from you but becomes a compact car when toyota wins an award. unless you try to get it from rental then it becomes a large car… lol

  • Anonymous

    How many people are in on this Hoax? Or hitting the wrong pedal? Awesome!!!

  • catsconnection32@yahoo.com

    I believe it. It is more important for Toyota to fix their image than fix there cars. I have a 2007 Camry Solara, that has a stuck gas pedal problem, it leaves me feeling that the Toyota’s are neither dependable, reliable, safe, or in my case on the recall list, which leaves me financally responsible. Let’s see new ad campaign ” Moving Forward” how about “Moving Forward Faster” If you think the cars are safe, buy one, have one that is experiencing problems, and we will see who is stupid,. I think it is so wrong that Toyota has called the owner of the Prius in a accident in San Diego a liar. I don’t think he just thought it up to get attention, if that was the cause he would be suing Toyota. It is going to take more than a report from JD Powers proclaiming Toyota’s as most dependable car. Most dangerous would be more accurate.

  • Anonymous

    stuck pedal? please… it’s all in your mind! if it isn’t, try learn basic drive techniques, such as shifting to neutral, then go straight to a store to buy a lottery ticket because son of a gun, you have a one in a million problem!

  • Eric Wiggins

    I do not own a Prius, but I am curious because I may get one next year and a friend of mine may buy one in about 6 months.

    If I am speeding down the road at an uncontrollable speed I would place the car in neutral and/or turn of the car. Is this not possible with a Prius? Did it not occur to these people to just turn the car off or shift in neutral? I learned this in basic driver’s ed class.

  • Anonymous

    Eric Wiggins, not only would you put the car in neutral, you would want to put the car in neutral as much as possible! I do this all the time when going downhill and the battery is all charged up. This helps one to use the brakes and make sure that the water gets cooked out of them and any possible collecting rust is knocked off the disc and drums (with regenerative braking, this is more of a problem on the coastlines and not so much here in low humidity Colorado). One of the mileage techniques is to set the cruise control at the speed limit or slightly over and then put the car in neutral and coast. Once the car slows down to five or ten mile under the speed limit (no lower than 25 mph or the cruise control will not “remember” the setting), one puts it back in “Drive” and hits the resume speed on the cruise control. The car “knows” how it is suppose to accelerate due to programming and goes back to the cruise control setting. Once there, one starts the cycle all over again. This gives the most glide with some of the least gas usage. Most people find this is too tedious to do on a constant basis. But then again, cruise control itself does a decent job in and of itself in saving gas versus one controlling the gas pedal on their own.

    And it is from this experience with using neutral that I feel very safe to say that Mr. Sike’s story does not have “holes” in it, but has “craters” in it.

    The floor mats creeping is only a problem because the rubber mats were not cut out enough to avoid problems when people cleaned the mats and did not properly rehook them to the floor. After the recall mats are put in it leaves a lot more room to creep before becoming a problem. They have never been a problem in our 2006 Prius since we have the fabric mats. It would require ~ 3 inches of creeping before becoming a problem and I have always made sure that the mats are hooked so they never creep.

    The only problem that my wife and I have had with our 2006 Prius is the High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights. I think one of their vendors sold them some less that Toyota quality bulbs. And their dealers sold the HID headlamps at high markups. Even though there was a failed attempt to get a recall for the problem, Toyota decided to pay the labor (the largest part of the cost of replacing the headlamps) if one would buy the headlamps for the replacement (at ~50% off the admitted overprice). Is Toyota perfect? No. Neither are any of the other car manufactures. Are we going to sell our Toyota Prius over all this? To us, and our savings in gas cost, it would be like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face – not going to happen.

  • Anonymous

    Eric Wiggins, not only would you put the car in neutral, you would want to put the car in neutral as much as possible! I do this all the time when going downhill and the battery is all charged up. This helps one to use the brakes and make sure that the water gets cooked out of them and any possible collecting rust is knocked off the disc and drums (with regenerative braking, this is more of a problem on the coastlines and not so much here in low humidity Colorado). One of the mileage techniques is to set the cruise control at the speed limit or slightly over and then put the car in neutral and coast. Once the car slows down to five or ten mile under the speed limit (no lower than 25 mph or the cruise control will not “remember” the setting), one puts it back in “Drive” and hits the resume speed on the cruise control. The car “knows” how it is suppose to accelerate due to programming and goes back to the cruise control setting. Once there, one starts the cycle all over again. This gives the most glide with some of the least gas usage. Most people find this is too tedious to do on a constant basis. But then again, cruise control itself does a decent job in and of itself in saving gas versus one controlling the gas pedal on their own.

    And it is from this experience with using neutral that I feel very safe to say that Mr. Sike’s story does not have “holes” in it, but has “craters” in it.

    The floor mats creeping is only a problem because the rubber mats were not cut out enough to avoid problems when people cleaned the mats and did not properly rehook them to the floor. After the recall mats are put in it leaves a lot more room to creep before becoming a problem. They have never been a problem in our 2006 Prius since we have the fabric mats. It would require ~ 3 inches of creeping before becoming a problem and I have always made sure that the mats are hooked so they never creep.

    The only problem that my wife and I have had with our 2006 Prius is the High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights. I think one of their vendors sold them some less that Toyota quality bulbs. And their dealers sold the HID headlamps at high markups. Even though there was a failed attempt to get a recall for the problem, Toyota decided to pay the labor (the largest part of the cost of replacing the headlamps) if one would buy the headlamps for the replacement (at ~50% off the admitted overprice). Is Toyota perfect? No. Neither are any of the other car manufactures. Are we going to sell our Toyota Prius over all this? To us, and our savings in gas cost, it would be like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face – not going to happen.

  • Nathan F

    david, you should be quiet before we all see how smart you really are. which isn’t smart at all. Toyota is the best vehicle manufacturer around as far as safety and reliability go. their production is years ahead of what gm is. from start to finish just a much better company than any other.

  • sabianq

    ok..
    according to the “black Box”..

    The police car video showing the break lights solidly lit on the prius that was speeding is in error..

    the small of burnt break pads that the officer reported is also in error…

    the severly damaged break pads that was found is also an error..

    isnt it interesting thet the computer said thet the breaks were pressed lightly 250 times? I really have to wonder if the actual number being reported from the “black box” was 256 (a digital word length).

    hmmm..

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Sabianq, if one pumps the brakes 256 times without ever really taking their foot totally off the brake, the brake lights will stay on just like in the video. If one keeps his foot on the gas pedal at the same time while one does this to the brake pedal, one will both burn and damage the brake pads.

    Mr. Sike said that he tried to put it in neutral. But, to the best of my knowledge, there is no record of that in the computer. Having put our Prius in neutral many tens of thousands of times, I can tell you that at least our Prius has never failed to get into neutral those tens of thousands of times (I use it to increase gas mileage).

    It has also been noted that Mr. Sike owes both the state and feds much in back taxes. It is my understanding that he still owed thousands on his Prius.

    hmmm.. I wonder if he thought about dumping his car debt scot free by using all the present recalls as an excuse to claim that his Prius was also defective? What do you think Mr. Sabianq? Do you think that might be possible? Once the police, NTSB, and Toyota are done investigating, won’t it be interesting to see what the real truth is in this situation?

  • Lexus SC300

    Sabianq – you can keep your break lights on if you depress the break lightly, and you won’t stop, there is actually no breaking force, as the light comes on before the brakes engage. I do this all the time when people are tailgating me, I don’t slow down, or brake check them but the brake lights come on, make them back off.

    If you actually do some research Sikes story is BS, and he’s a dirt-bag.

    Unfortunately this was all set off by a floor mat and a CHP officer that panicked not turning the Lexus courtesy vehicle off or into neutral. The same thing happened to the previous guy that had the courtesy vehicular accelerator was stuck, but that normal guy didn’t have any issues. Told the lexus dealer about it, but they didnt’ fix the RX400 floor mats.

    Then just like Pepsi in the 90′s you have people jumping on the bandwagon.

    people over 60yrs old are most likely to hit the gas over the brake, thinking they are on the brake they push harder = more acceleration.

    Do research!
    =)

  • Anonymous

    sabianq,

    don’t know where you got your information from, no one said the brake wear was in error. however, this condition can be achieved through malicious intent.

    where’s the video that shows the police car cam? i find none on youtube. even if true, this does not mean much since driver can alter braking patterns when police arrived. would that explain why he was able to stop in the presence of police? the things that makes you go hmmm….

  • anonymous

    if i were toyota i would close my plants down an move back to china beause the only time they had any problems was when they hired amercian car builders because all they care about is a pay check nit how the quality of the automobile is there are just as many amercian car that have not been reported on as toyota remember toyata did not need a bail out

  • Robc

    From the last some of year i have seen toyota is going down to his track record. even in Cars sales in USA its not good at all. Its really not worth to have this car, why they have to make this in USA. in simple i would not like to spend even Low Cost Car Insurance will not spend on this.

  • calvin

    Toyota’s only ever had 2 factories in China (compared to 15+ in Japan). And exploiting cheap labor in a 2nd-world country is not conducive of higher quality products. If you want to improve car quality, you pay your workers more, not so little that they’re going on strike every two months. Otherwise, you do what gave the Japanese their advantage in the first place–you use robots and take the human factor out of the equation.

    And when the hell are the hybridcars.com admins going to do something about their spam problem? It’s hard to have a serious discussion with all these braindead posts by people like Robc and “pickup trucks”. At the very least force anonymously-posted comments to use “nofollow” tags in their outbound links.

  • Johan Samul

    I own Toyota Prius which was 2 yr old and running very fine for me still now i didn’t face any acceleration problems nor any other problems. after seeing much of the recall news and accident data over the Toyota problems am still confident in Toyota and it’s quality of product,

    First we could understand that no one can build a error less vehicle just they can build as safety vehicle as they know. and after seeing the acceleration, break pedal problems i would suggest that we need to add the course into the Joshua’s law online course or every traffic school programs about how to handle the sudden acceleration problem, by educating the consumers we can save some lives.

  • Nevada Drivers Ed Online

    Section was a pretty good article. I just found your blog and really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  • Nisha

    Its not advisable to trust the media report always.I have also heard a lot about Pirius performance from my friend who actually own this car.As suggested in this article there has been minimal complaint of this model and hence we can easily say this is among the one of the best car from toyota.Performance mainly depend on few factors like how good is the delay timer switch installed in your car.If the switch is good then 90 out of 100 times your car performance will also be good.

  • tapra1

    the brakes and the throttle was fully open,” NHTSA said Thursday in a statement about a Harrison, N.Y., crash. NHTSA officials said the findings mean the accident was caused by the driver, most likely because she pressed the accelerator instead of the brake.Tech News

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