My Take on the Toyota Prius Brake Recall

Before I get started, I’ll preface this entry with the fact that I own a 2008 Toyota Prius (second generation) which is not affected by the current recall of the third generation Prius.

It seems to me that the media has sensationalised what is effectively a nuance in the way a Toyota hybrid vehicle brakes. Having owned one for nearly 18 months, the brakes by nature feel and react different simply by virtue of their being two sets of brakes (one set of regenerative brakes to recharge the hybrid battery and traditional brakes when you really need to stop).

The actual problem at hand has to do with the way the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) is engaged in certain situations such as driving over a pothole or over a patch of ice. I can attest first hand that my Prius exhibits a similar behaviour to what has been reported in the third generation vehicle. There’s a developing pot hole in the slip lane before the bend when turning on the Pacific Highway heading towards Sydney that I sometimes hit on my way to work. Without fail, the ABS light will flash and there will be a slight moment where it feels as if the car has sped up ever so slightly.

Of course, Toyota can do some fine tuning to make things feel closer to the brakes on a non-hybrid but I don’t think they will ever nail it nor should they have to pursue it. I think there just has to be an acceptance that there is a lot of technology inside the Prius and the fact that it works as well as it does is amazing. I am more impressed with the fact that the drive-train (which is far more complex than the brakes to be honest) has not had a single reported fault across the three generations of the Prius.

Of course, highlighting the positives sure does take the wind out of a sensational story, doesn’t it?

The fix itself (which is already available) takes a minute or two to implement. No need for spare parts or a screwdriver – just plug in a computer with the software update and upload away. My previous vehicle (Hyundai Grandeur XG) had a recall that took a couple of hours to fix and it wasn’t a simple one either.

One thing with which I completely agree is that Toyota could have absolutely handled this situation in a better fashion. Due diligence should have been exercised in investigating customer claims which would have involved minimal financial outlay. Mind you, certain parts of the media has also suffered some collateral damage such as the ABC in the US which has had Toyota advertising shifted away to a competing station due to “excessive coverage”.

I’m all for hearing about the facts and getting a message out to the masses when appropriate but the brakes need to be put on the hyperbole. Shock reporting gets ratings but fails to satisfy in terms of substance especially when it comes to subject matter involving technology.

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