The Toyota Prius is Stalling

The Toyota Prius is Stalling

Thirteen vehicles stalling; We’re happy it gets the headlines, but thirteen vehicles stalling – just make sure to spell our name right; talk about Prius.

James E. Press, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer – March 17, 2005

Back in March 2004, Motorweek started a long-term drive of the 2004 Toyota Prius. In its first week, it wrote, “Date: 21 March 2004 Miles: 2,000.”

By now you know we have been singing the praises of the 2004 Toyota Prius. This Camry-size gasoline-electric hybrid even won our Best Eco-Friendly Drivers Choice Award. But with every new technology comes a learning curve for both a car’s builder and it’s buyers.

For instance, the hybrid technology in the Prius is still evolving. The Prius is a full hybrid vehicle which means it can run on either gasoline or electric power or both. Good thing since the gasoline engine in our car stalled in traffic and wouldn’t restart. But we were able to safely turn off the highway and find a parking lot using electric power alone. Who says two engines aren’t better than one? The cause was a corroded electrical connector. ”

According to John Hansen, Toyotas National Manager, Product Communications for Toyota, Lexus, and Scion, “Toyota didn’t know anything about stalling vehicles till the Wall Street Journal called us and told us about a chat line that made these claims. There has been nothing on the internal radar screen.”

Toyota is known for reliability, so this year has to be a tough one that Toyota has not had to face before, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it. Besides allegations of Prius stalling, Toyota has had recalls – or Special Service Campaigns (SSC) – as Toyota likes to call them that cover certain 2001-02 4Runner SUVs; 2001-04 Tacoma pickups; and 2002-04 Tundra pickups and Sequoia SUVs; 92,577 Celica coupes from the 2000 and 2001 model years, to adjust daytime running lights, which could be too bright for oncoming drivers; 22,228 model year 2005 Tacoma pickups to tighten a lock nut on the parking brake pedal; 24,000 Prius 2004 software upgrade and a 3,500 Prius 2004 software update.

According to Hansen, Toyota owners have a small percentage of responding to recalls. “That in it’self could be a problem. If the owner doesn’t take the car in for the upgrade they may have a false sense of security.”

Jeannine Fallon, a spokesperson for edmunds.com, says there have been 14 individuals post complaints in a Prius forum about the car suddenly shutting off. No injuries or fatalities have been linked to the problem.

The latest post read;

“I was driving home last week in my 04 Prius, watching the mpg reading creep up to 48.0 when I stopped at a stop sign. Immediately after starting up, my dashboard lit up with multiple failure warnings, including “VSC”, the red triangle around an exclamation point, a yellow circle with an exclamation point, etc. The car continued forward, but just on battery power. Since I was only 2 miles from home, I decided to continue, and made it into my driveway by coasting the last 1/2 mile.”

“The car then stopped and would not move forward. I turned it off and read some of the manual. After a few minutes, I pressed the “ON” button and this time the gas engine started, although the mass of warning lights stayed on. I got the car into the garage, where I left it running to charge the battery (garage door open of course). While I called Toyota, the car stopped.”

“After having it towed on a flatbed to Toyota the next day, the car was fixed by reprogramming the ECM (engine control module). So far there is no explanation from Toyota for the failure, I’m trying to work my way up to someone who knows something about the computers. My confidence in this car and Toyota was badly shaken by this incident.”

Hansen says Toyota is in the process of trying to identify these people and figure out if the problem is that they didn’t come in and get the software upgrade or if there is another glitch.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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