Toyota may have addressed its latest safety defect, but some consumers were apparently left with a car with reduced fuel efficiency. For Prius owners and buyers, fuel efficiency is one of the most sought-after features in a new automobile. And the Toyota Prius has delivered on its promise of fuel efficiency in the past few years. Consumer Reports reported that the 2016 Toyota Prius had better fuel economy than any other car in the category.
Toyota’s Prius Recall
In 2014, approximately 800,000 Priuses were recalled nationally to address problems with overheating that caused damage to the inverter, an essential component of the car’s electrical system. Toyota began a software fix that entailed installing new code in two electronic modules. An inverter replacement costs $2000, while the software update costs only $80. Toyota was criticized for not replacing in the inverter in the first place.
The software update, in any case. seems to have failed to fix the problem. The largest Toyota dealers in Southern California initiated a lawsuit stating that the software update was ineffective and could cause the car to suddenly lose power. Many Prius owners have also reported that the system is still overheating.
Fuel Efficiency Concerns by Prius Owners
Now owners are complaining that their fuel economy dropped after they had their cars repaired under the recall. In addition to an inadequately repaired car, Prius owner Robert Enger noted that his fuel economy dropped by 5 miles per gallon while driving in the city. Experts believe that updating the software was likely the reason for reduced fuel efficiency in the cars. A new lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles makes even more damaging allegations: it claims that Toyota deliberately did not reveal to Prius owners that the software change would inhibit fuel efficiency. The claimants allege that the falsified fuel efficiency data contravenes consumer protection laws and amounts to fraud, false advertising and breach of contract.
Toyota Suspected of Wrongdoing
While Toyota denies any wrongdoing, the company’s records reveal some questionable data. According to documents, the company did not alter just the software connected to the inverter. It also modified software related to the powertrain control system. This system controls how much power is transferred to the transmission by the engine and the electric motors. The alteration in the powertrain software combined with the defect in the inverter suggests that the software update reduced power to the battery. This would induce the gas engine to take over, thereby lessening the car’s fuel economy and increasing the emissions output.
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