Gen III Prius – Brake Boost Pump Assemblies & Brake Master Cylinder Assembly

Gen II Prius – Brake Actuator Assembly

Currently, NHTSA’s safercar.gov website contains over 1800 complaints pertaining to the brake system in 2010-2015 generation III Prius vehicles. Of these 1800 complaints, at least 42 of complaints include “crashes” detailing at least 17 injuries . At least 31 of these crashes and 10 of these injuries occurred or were reported to NHTSA while Toyota was under the probationary period of its deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice for its illegal conduct during the Unintended Acceleration scandal.

These stories of potential brake failure in Prius vehicles have led Congressman Olson of the 22nd District of Texas to reach out to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on behalf of a constituent who desired more details about Toyota’s actions regarding the brakes in her 2010 Prius. In a letter to Toyota the constituent stated she experienced “a major safety issue” because “the brakes did not work properly” in her 2010 Prius. She continued stating, “I do not understand why I was not notified of a potential safety issue with the brakes which could endanger my family and others.” Documentation from the local Toyota dealership stated the 2010 Prius needed a new “ABS accumulator and actuator” costing over $4,500. She had to pay for the replacement parts out of her own pocket.

Another Prius brake failure story details how the driver of a 2013 Prius – who had crashed into the back of another vehicle – had their “failure to control” citation overturned by an Arizona court of law upon review of the Prius’ “Crash Data Retrieval” data gathered using Bosch equipment. Documentation from the Tucson City Court shows the judge ruled that, “Car data appears to show that the vehicle brakes malfunctioned/failed to properly engage when applied.” Car data refers to the “Crash Data Retrieval” information – often referred to as black box data – that was extracted from the 2013 Prius after the accident. The driver provided an explanation of the findings to the court stating, “It’s obvious…that I applied the brakes with plenty of time (3.65 seconds) to safely stop my vehicle. What the data also indicates is that there was a catastrophic failure of the brake system.”

Despite many complaints regarding the brakes in 2010-2015 generation III Prius vehicles – including those on NHTSA’s safercar.gov website detailing crashes and injuries – only a certain number 2010 model year Prius vehicles have been subject to a safety recall addressing a defect in the brakes. Toyota issued safety recall A0B in February 2010 covering approximately 133,000 2010 Prius vehicles and safety recall D0H in June 2013 covering about 82,000 2010 Prius vehicles. However, Toyota has not acknowledged a safety defect regarding the brakes in some model year 2010s and has not acknowledged a safety defect in any 2011 – 2015 model year generation III Prius vehicles.

Stories describing similar brake malfunctions in generation II Prius vehicles are also plentiful online. Despite many complaints regarding the brakes 2004-2009 generation II Prius vehicles – including over 1200 on NHTSA’s safercar.gov website – Toyota has never acknowledged a safety defect in generation II Prius vehicles. NHTSA’s safercar.gov website contains complaints detailing at least 35 crashes and 22 injuries classified under brake-related categories. At least 12 of the crashes and 8 of the injuries occurred or were reported to NHTSA during the probationary period of Toyota’s deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice.

Toyota has never conducted a safety recall to prevent these types of brake issues in generation II Prius vehicles. In August 2016, when many of the covered models were over a decade old, Toyota issued Warranty Enhancement ZG1. ZG1 covers “internal malfunctions of the Brake Actuator assembly” for about 736,000 vehicles including generation II Prius, Highlander Hybrids, and nearly 200,000 Lexus vehicles.  Toyota’s ZG1 warranty enhancement expired on December 31, 2017. After expiration the owner of a generation II Prius that experiences an “internal malfunction of the brake actuator assembly” has no enhanced warranty coverage. Toyota may also refuse to reimburse Prius owners if they apply to be paid back for covering the expensive brake repair out of pocket years ago.

Safety recalls are legally required to prevent a dangerous defect from occurring. Warranty Enhancements require the failure to occur prior to receiving replacement parts.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Compendium, “Manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment are responsible under U.S. law for both notifying NHTSA and conducting a safety recall campaign when they discover a safety related defect…in motor vehicles or equipment that they manufacture.” NHTSA’s Compendium continues to define “Motor Vehicle Safety” as, “the performance of motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment in such a manner that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring as a result of the design, construction, or performance of motor vehicles…”

You can read more about Toyota’s actions while under the probationary period of their deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice here.

The Statement of Facts from Toyota’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice contained the following statement regarding Toyota’s attitude toward conducting a safety recall: