Brake Issue Leads to Review of Some Toyota Hybrids


Source: The following is excerpted from a post by the Los Angeles Daily News. The entire post can be read by clicking on this sentence.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – Federal traffic safety officials are looking into a possible brake defect in certain Toyota hybrid cars after a Southern California franchise dealer called for an investigation and a safety recall earlier last year.

Among the vehicles under review is the 2013 Toyota Prius Liftback, the kind that plowed into three Oakwood School teens in a North Hollywood (Calif.) crosswalk, seriously injuring them, in June of 2014, according to Roger Hogan, owner and president of Claremont Toyota and Capistrano Toyota dealerships, who filed the defect petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  in September.

Hogan highlighted that “tragic crash” — in which the driver of the rented Prius maintained his brakes had failed — in an urgent addendum to his petition filed on Dec. 13, 2019.

After hearing complaints from customers, Hogan requested that the U. S. Department of Transportation’s NHTSA investigate a “dangerous safety defect” in the brakes of certain Toyota hybrid vehicles: the 2010-2015 Prius (Liftback) and 2012-2015 Prius Plug-in Hybrid; the 2012-2014 Camry Hybrid; and the 2013-2015 Avalon Hybrid vehicles, he said.

“This brake defect is causing crashes that are injuring people — and Toyota is mishandling it,” Hogan claimed in the Sept. 19 petition to NHTSA.His petition called for a safety recall of about one million vehicles over the alleged defect in the “brake booster pump assemblies with the master cylinder,” a component covered under Toyota warranty-extension programs ZJB and ZKK.

Because many of the affected models are only covered by a warranty repair, these brake components have to fail or malfunction before they can be replaced, Hogan said in an interview.

“We want (Toyota) to fix the brakes before there’s a failure putting lives at stake,” he said.

The petition identified more than 115 complaints made to the federal safety agency since 2010 that Hogan believes could be associated with the alleged defect — which “can occur intermittently” — in these types of vehicles. Sixty of them reported crashes.

NHTSA, which can require manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet federal safety standards, launched its review on Sept. 30, according to agency documents. The federal agency requested detailed information about these types of vehicles from Toyota Motor Corp. in October.

“NHTSA is reviewing a defect petition concerning valve wear in the brakes of certain model year 2010-2015 Toyota Prius/Camry HV/Avalon HV vehicles,” the agency said in an emailed statement. “The agency will thoroughly examine the petition and corresponding data to determine if there is evidence of a safety-related defect.”

NHTSA did not say how long its review could take. However, if the defect petition is granted, a formal investigation — generally resolved within a year —  would be launched.

Officials from Toyota Motor North America said in a written statement that they are cooperating with NHTSA’s review and are committed to customer safety and security.

“As part of that commitment, we monitor available vehicle safety and performance information in the field and take appropriate action to address issues when they arise,” the automaker said.

According to Claremont Toyota and Capistrano Toyota, the alleged brake defect could cause the warning lamps on the vehicles’ instrument panel to illuminate, increase stopping distance, reduce hydraulic pressure within one’s brake system and deactivate brake assist and stability control.

Since 2013, Toyota has issued at least two safety recalls on some hybrids over these brake components but has “put innocent lives at risk by knowingly excluding hundreds of thousands of hybrids with defective brakes,” according to Hogan’s petition.

The first recall, which applied to certain 2010 model year Priuses, was launched in 2013 after Toyota noted that the vehicles’ brake booster pump assembly can crack, potentially causing conditions that “could affect stopping distance and increase the risk of a crash.”

Another recall, which applied to certain 2019 and 2020 models, was launched last year, with Toyota noting that the brake booster pump “may have been manufactured improperly, and in some cases, may stop operating.”

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