On the first day or the announced recall of Toyota Priuses, the reaction from hybrid owners has been remarkably muted. Media reports from around the country reveal that few Prius drivers seem overly concerned about a potential problem with uneven braking. The calm reaction could be explained by the devotion of Prius drivers to their hybrids—or to the Toyota brand—or by the fact that Toyota’s much larger and potentially dangerous recall involving unintended accleration makes the Prius problem seem minor. Or is the public growing weary of the Toyota recall story?
Here’s a random sampling from around the country:
“Auto industry experts say the brake issue probably won’t have much of an impact on Prius sales. Hybrid owners adore their cars and are far more forgiving than other Toyota buyers. Cleveland filmmaker Bill Laufer said he was willing to give Toyota a pass on this problem. ‘I love this car,’ he said of his 2010 Prius. ‘I absolutely, unequivocally love everything about this vehicle. Philosophically, I think it’s the sort of thing that we should all be driving.’”
“So am I losing sleep over my Prius? So far, no. Toyota made technical mistakes and apparently fumbled in acting on the problem. But I don’t think I’ve encountered this specific problem, even over potholed roads. Again, my issue is far less serious than the sticking accelerator that Toyota is also dealing with, so I feel fortunate.”
“Toyota’s announcement Tuesday about recalling the 2010 Prius to update computer software for its brake system didn’t bring a wave of calls to Jacksonville dealerships like Toyota’s earlier recall of eight models for potentially faulty gas pedals. Overall, the sentiment among 30 people contacted by the Times-Union was that the recall wouldn’t stop them from buying a Toyota in the future. The most common complaint among the Toyota owners, who are part of an e-mail list the newspaper uses to get feedback, was that Toyota didn’t move quickly enough to issue the gas pedal recall.”
“What is the effect of the Toyota recall on the green automobile movement? In the smattering of Toyota owners I’ve talked to, most (at least on the surface) remain strong supporters of the brand. But the car business is a moving target and there are plenty of other brands out there that can claim legitimate ‘turf’ in the world of ‘green” (eco) vehicles…So while Toyota may (or may not) recover from this, all the conversation, and all the other very real, fuel efficient, competitively priced options not only translate into a win for the individual consumer, they collective add up to a win for planet earth.”
Industry observers generally view the Prius recall as a relatively minor event—one which will not slow down the growth of hybrid and electric cars. Oliver Hazimeh, director of the North American Automotive Practice for consulting firm PRTM, believes the “recall presents a short-term bump in the road regarding consumer perception of hybrid-electric vehicles and [pure] electric vehicles.” Hazimeh published his view on the website Green Car Congress: “There is no question that longer term, the fundamental drivers for increased powertrain electrification are alive and well.”
According to PRTM, hybrid technology has been successfully and robustly used for more than 10 years in other Prius models, as well as in non-Toyota models. PRTM believes that the worldwide tipping point for acceptance of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles, whereby these vehicles become a major part of the automotive powertrain portfolio, will likely occur in the next few years.
Consumer consideration Prius, as measured by Edmunds.com data analysts late last week, actually rose after news of the recall first emerged. “Most Prius shoppers aren’t looking for anything else and are likely to be willing to wait until they feel the problem has been fixed rather than going to another hybrid,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis. “We think the recalls will have less effect on the Prius than on any other model, and it really doesn’t look like any of the Toyotas are going to be hit that hard.”