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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Toyota has owners jumping through hoops to redress defects in the gas-electric Prius

On Jan. 11, I spent at least an hour at the Motor Vehicle Commission office in Lodi getting our 2010 Toyota Prius registered as part of the documentation I need to file a claim for defective headlight bulbs.


Editor's update: On March 31, 2018, I received a check for $80.08 from Toyota Motor Sales USA to compensate me for replacement of Prius halogen headlight bulbs.


Our 2010 Toyota Prius certainly is reliable, but the eco-friendly hybrid also has been dogged by several "safety recall notices" and one "warranty enhancement program."

The latter provides "enhanced coverage" relating to the halogen headlamp bulbs, which have burnt out prematurely.

Both bulbs were replaced for free in February 2013 as a "goodwill" gesture.

But when the driver's side bulb burnt out again last August, my Toyota dealer in Hackensack said I would have to pay for the replacement, a total of $76.97, including new license plate bulbs.

Then, I received a "customer support program notification" from Toyota Motor Sales in Texas, offering replacement of the bulbs, installation of "voltage adjustment wire harnesses," and possible reimbursement.

When I decided to seek reimbursement for last August's repair, I had to send Toyota copies of the repair order and enough documents for a court case.

Consumers often call this jumping through hoops.

The cover photo on the dealer brochure showed the 2010 Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid amid green hills and blue sky. That environmentally friendly message has been replaced with an emphasis on how well the new generation Prius performs. Below, the original sticker with an MSRP of $31,166, including an optional solar panel that turned on fans to cool the interior when the car is parked in hot weather.

Toyota's checklist

The first document requested was the repair order or invoice "showing the repairs are related to the covered condition."

Proof-of-payment was required, including a cancelled check, signed credit card receipt or copy of my credit card statement.

Vehicle identification also had to be sent in, such as the state registration, copy of the bill of sale and copy of the title (I sent all three).

In the process of gathering the documents, we discovered the state Motor Vehicle Commission never sent us a registration renewal notice for the Prius, which my wife drives. 

So, I spent about an hour at the MVC office in Lodi, updating our registration.

I sent in all the documents, and received a letter saying they are being reviewed. 

I won't be holding my breath for that reimbursement check.

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