Some Toyota Prius Owners in Dark Mood

By Brendan Moore

07.03.2009

2007 Toyota Prius

Some Prius owners are hopping mad at Toyota for selling them a car that the owners claim has a serious safety defect – their headlamps burning out quickly.

The online chatter among Toyota Prius owners about their headlamps burning out seems to have started around late 2006, with complaints from owners that their optional, upgraded lamps were burning out too quickly, but more importantly, are hideously expensive to replace.

The unhappiness has gotten much more pronounced lately, with a class-action suit filed against Toyota by a group of Prius owners, and, US federal safety officials are investigating the issue currently, having started their investigation in April of this year.

So, how expensive is hideously expensive?

Depending on whether the shop has to replace part of the assembly, or,  the entire light assembly module, the cost runs from $300 USD to $1800 USD. That is per headlamp. A few owners have stated that they have had to replace both HID lamps on their Prius.

Think about paying $600 out of pocket to replace the headlamps on your 2 year-old Prius, and, it’s not a happy thought. Think about paying $3600 to replace your headlights and your thoughts become as dark as the night.

Hence, the class-action suit.

Prius owners want Toyota to pick up those replacement costs voluntarily, or, have the federal government determine that the issue is a safety defect and subsequently force Toyota to absorb those costs on behalf of consumers.

The timing is bad for Toyota, since they are in the middle the launch of the third-generation Prius, a 2010 model. The expensive national media blitz has already started.

toyota-logo-smallOf course, Toyota’s brand reputation is even more important than one model’s reputation and this can’t be good in that regard. This single issue is not a catastrophe; it’s not going to turn into a public relations crisis, but it’s not a positive. Consumers don’t generally buy Toyotas for their looks or their sports performance, or, at this point, even fuel economy, since others easily match Toyota in fuel efficiency. Consumers prize Toyotas for their reliability and those cars’ low costs of ownership, and that is the purchase trigger, and, the source of Toyota’s customer loyalty. Deterioration of those two brand qualities would eventually have a serious negative effect on Toyota sales.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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9 Comments

  1. I think the right word for me is schadenfreude.

    The Toyota Pious drivers are not so smug now. I wonder what sort of extra natural resources those replacement lights require? Not to mention the money and and the hassle.

    My God, I love it!

  2. There is no reason to be alarmed. If things play out the same way the class action suits filed regarding the engine sludge issue did you won’t see anyone report any of these headlight issues on any quality survey. Toyota will still be able promote the misperception that their vehicles are tops in quality. Even this article implies that Toyota quality is the reason people buy Toyotas. So essentially people buy Toyotas based on a falsehood.

    Fortunately, judging from activity in the marketplace the average consumer is gravitating away from the smoke and mirrors perpetuated by Toyota and even moreso by Toyota customers.

    Toyota was already beginning to slip in sales before the economic crisis hit, and they have increased their decline at a faster rate than others, especially when compared to Ford.

  3. agree with Lance, toyota quality has reely gone south. the public is just buyin a lie now

  4. An opportunity for all the haters to come out of the woodwork.

    My 06 Camry has been perfect since the day I bought it. And I think it looks very sporty, that was one of the resons I bought it. Maybe it doesn’t corner like a Porsche or a Ferrari, but it handles well enough for me.

    Toyota makes cars that are just about perfect in every way. If this weren’t true, they wouldn’t have the success they do. You guys are out of step with the majority of Americans who LOVE Toyota. Plus, they are the environmentally responsible car company, at least they make a hybrid! I don’t see Ford, GM, Chrysler making hybrids, do you?

  5. @Love my Toyota

    I am a Toyota owner (2008 Sienna Limited AWD) and think it’s a great van. It’s good (my wife adores the thing) and it hasn’t had any mechanical problems, but there has always been pronounced valve noise when it’s first started until the engine is warm.

    You do know that Ford has had the Escape and Mariner hybrids on the market for several years, don’t you? And now the excellent Fusion hybrid? Chrysler had two of them (Durango and Aspen), and GM sells several trucks with a hybrid drivetrain, with more hybrid products on the way.

    Toyota is living on the reputation that it established over several decades, but its products aren’t God’s gift to the automotive world. They are boring and generally awkwardly styled. The interiors have cheapened over the past several years (comparing our introduced-in-2004 Sienna to a 2008 Highlander’s interior is eye-opening). For you to say that your 2006 Camry (which I’m sure is a solid, reliable car) looks very sporty just makes one call your sense of automotive taste into question. No offense meant, of course. I kind of liked the 2010 Prius in a brief drive back in May.

    Don’t forget gas guzzlers like the Tundra, Sequoia, LX570, and even my 17 mpg Sienna when touting Toyota’s green credentials. They are the unquestioned hybrid leader, but the rest of their products get pretty mid-pack fuel economy numbers.

  6. Honestly, when this came out, I wondered what the big fuss was about. It should be known that HIDs are prone to burning out when they’re, you know, constantly being turned on and off. Coincidentally, the Prius comes with DRL. And HID bulbs aren’t expensive to replace, a hassle to get to the assembly perhaps but anything that gets done by the stealership will cost you an arm and a leg.

    But seriously? Yawn… QQ moar.

  7. Love my Toyota – It’s obvious you don’t know anything about cars and you don’t appreciate cars, so why are you even on this site?

    What you know about cars is that you really like your Camry. It’s sporty and really cool-looking, right?

    All you’re doing is embarassing yourself.

  8. They must use those HID lights in other Toyota vehicles, are those burning out early? If not, then it must be something related to the hybrid electric harness.

  9. Headlights burning out. Prius ownwers in dark mood. I got it on the second pass.

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