Prius Owners Mostly Unfazed by Recall

12 02 2010

Prius Rebuke

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?

Toyota president Akio Toyoda, head bowed, was rebuked by Japanese Transport Minister Seiji Maehara regarding the Prius recall. But reaction in the US was muted.

Industry Viewpoint

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.”

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