Claremont dealership refuses to sell some Toyota Prius models over safety recall

CLAREMONT, Calif. (KABC) -- At Roger Hogan's Toyota dealership in Claremont, customers can view new and used vehicles - but anyone interested in purchasing a used 2010 to 2015 Prius will have to go elsewhere.

Last year, Hogan stopped selling the popular hybrid at both his Southern California dealerships. He did so after he said he noticed several Priuses that had received software fixes under a 2014 voluntary recall had failed.

"That was supposed to prevent the failure, the loss of power, with a reduction in power on these cars. It simply did not do that," he said.

Hogan said the problem is with the vehicle's inverter, which transfers power between the electric motor and battery. He reached out to Toyota for a solution.

"The only real fix for these cars is to put a new improved inverters system into the cars," he said.

But Hogan said Toyota refused. He believes cost is the issue. The software fix is $80 to do, while installing an inverter would cost $3,000 per vehicle.

So, he did something rare in the industry and put a "stop sale" on Prius models under the recall, including some 2015 models. In the process, he filed a lawsuit against his parent company and petitioned federal regulators to investigate.

On Friday, Toyota did issue a safety recall on 2010 to 2014 model year Prius and 2012 to 2014 Prius V vehicles. Approximately 807,000 vehicles the U.S.

The company then issued a safety notice to customers that read, in part, "Toyota has found that in rare situations, the vehicle may not enter a failsafe driving mode as intended. If this occurs, the vehicle could lose power and stall. While power steering and braking would remain operational, a vehicle stall while driving at higher speed could increase the risk of a crash."

Hogan said the admission validates his claims and that Toyota is still not adequately addressing the problem.

"These shutdown unexpectedly with no advanced warning. It is a significant danger to the public," he said. "Give us and the customers and the drivers that are driving these cars the safety that they deserve. Put the inverters in these cars."

In response to Eyewitness News, Toyota issued this statement:

"To be clear, the safety defect is the potential that under certain circumstances, specific component faults could cause the hybrid system to shut down instead of entering a failsafe mode.

"We remain committed to the safety and security of our customers. We believe that the software update is an appropriate and effective way to directly address the safety defect and deliver the safety benefit quickly to our customers.

"In these cases, hardware replacement does not directly address the safety defect that we have identified, which is the possibility that these vehicles may not enter a failsafe driving mode as intended. Thus, the recall remedy involves a software update.

"In a separate action from the safety recalls, Toyota has an existing customer support program, in addition to its standard hybrid warranty, where dealers will repair or replace inverters in the involved vehicles if they experience a failure with certain hybrid system faults related to the conditions in these recalls. The additional customer support is available for 15 years from the vehicle's date of first use with no mileage limitations. This program will continue to be available for the involved vehicles."

For now, Hogan is refusing to sell any Prius under the recall. He has near 100 vehicles just sitting at the dealerships, which he estimates is about $1 million in inventory. Despite that, he is still taking the vehicles in.

"We continue to take the cars in-trade to give the customers a fair value and continue to take what we believe is an unsafe car off the roads," Hogan said.
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