Toyota of America said it would recall nearly 2 million drivers of its Prius model vehicles made between 1997 and 2014, recognizing a variety of problems that have turned an energy efficient bestseller into a source of aggravation for other drivers. Future Prius purchasers are being rigorously screened by Toyota for manufacturing flaws.
In some vehicles, the drivers were unable to operate turn signals, stopped two car lengths before stop signs and signals, and fell below the speed limit by at least ten mph after cutting off other drivers. Other defects included creeping up behind pedestrians and honking, defaming OPEC, bumper sticker abuse, and inflating mileage claims in virtually every conversation they engage in.
“We’re deeply concerned with how a Prius driver will perform under ordinary traffic conditions,” said Ellen Marlow, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The behaviors so far range from pointedly smug to downright dangerous.” Marlow says that one driver even justified creating a ½ mile traffic jam behind him by claiming, “traffic laws are suggestions, and I suggest they think about what they’re driving.” "We haven’t seen this kind of attitude since the Ford F-150," Marlow said, "and we’re still trying to weed those drivers off the road as much as we can until we’re satisfied that the problem has been addressed and fixed.”
“We don’t see these kinds of problems with other hybrid models. Just Prius. These people make a Volvo driver seem like Pope Francis,” groaned one NHTSA official who requested anonymity because of his role in the recall.
Toyota’s bold action brings the number of licensed drivers called back by automakers in the U.S. to more than 18.7 million this year, well more than the 12.5 million annual recall record set in all of 2004.
“They're exactly why I don’t shop at Whole Foods anymore, said Joanne Fadly, 40, of Los Angeles. “There’s enough stress in daily life without having some self-righteous NPR-quoting Muppet driving around the parking lot like she’s having a medical episode. Artisan breads aren’t worth the grief.”
Prius driver Sam Miller, 33, of Lompoc, California says the accusations are exaggerations and “hateful.” “I paid the money, so I get to rock the ‘tude. If you don’t like it, buy a Vespa and get on the sidewalk where you belong. Do you know how much clean air I’m creating driving my car as opposed to, say, some circus freak in a Hummer?”
Critics note that Toyota’s pre-emptive recall is in part an attempt to re-hab its reputation after the deadly faulty gas pedal fiasco of a few years ago.
In response, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are all reviewing the psychological profiles of their own customers, which is a “good thing” according to Tondalaya Filishnitivni, a Toyota America public relations executive. “We make the Prius to create a sense of well-being in the people who drive them. If they didn’t associate a car with self-esteem, they'd drive a Matrix.”