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Lemon Car: Toyota Prius may be a defective car by design

Consider the danger of driving a vehicle and having it suddenly surge or lunge forward uncontrollably. This is what happened to several Toyota Prius owners recently who described their experience as an “uncontrollable acceleration.” One Prius owner stated that his lemon car “took off like a rocket.”

According to two articles, published by, despite repeated complaints and requests for repair by these owners, Toyota service centers minimized the concern and insisted that this was nothing more than “a carpet jamming the accelerator pedal or driver error.”

If this has happened only once before, then this rationale may be a plausible reason for the abnormal defect. However, if there has been numerous complaints of similar problems by different Prius owners, then either Toyota or its technicians are careless in its diagnostics, or it seems, to me, that there may be intentional misrepresentations here. This is a products liability issue.

If you happen to be in a similar situation with your lemon vehicle, it is important to do the following to preserve your rights as a consumer:

First, get everything in writing. For example, if the service manager indicates to you that this is merely driver error, then ask him to write that on the repair invoice. Thereafter, remove the carpet from your vehicle and see if the same problem reoccurs. If it does, then it would be difficult for the same service manager to negate his or her diagnostic error when you bring the vehicle in again for the same problem.

Second, make sure that the service manager closes the ticket after each visit to the service center. Most state lemon law measures the “lemonability” of a vehicle based upon the number of attempts that the customer brings the vehicle in for repair. Most dealerships are trained to leave the ticket open so that they only have to issue one (1) repair order for two (2) different visits.

Third, write complaint letters to the manufacturer addressing your concern with the vehicle and describe the haphazard job that the particular service center or dealership is doing. Many times, manufacturers rate dealerships on customer satisfaction and this will put pressure on the dealership to take your concern more seriously. At minimum it will provide both the manufacturer and the dealership notice of your problems in case you elect to pursue a lemon law claim in the future.

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