Recently Toyota Prius has been advertising on television with some amusing spots from Saatchi & Saatchi including one entitled “Rain’ in which an adolescent waits for the rain to wash the fourteen year old family Prius. Another spot entitled ‘Family Portrait’ depicts how the family has changed in the fourteen years they have owned their Prius.
What came to my mind were the issues with sticking in the accelerator pedal and the concern of unintended acceleration that plagued the Prius, reports of which began to filter in back in 2009. I remember at the time that anytime I was on the road I was on the lookout for any Prius’ to be sure I stayed clear. Right after the news became public I noticed Prius drivers on the road driving verrry slowly. Toyota ended up recalling nearly 2 million of the vehicles.
So how did Toyota manage to avoid what could have been a fatal blow to the brand? After all the EPA rates the Prius as one of the cleanest vehicles sold in the U.S. And the Prius is sold in more than 70 countries and regions and sales actually increased after the sticky accelerator reports. Today the Prius sells nearly 5 million units worldwide. For me I never looked at the brand the same way again after the issues were reported. Apparently I am in the minority.
Maybe future Prius buyers were impressed that Toyota paid a $1.1 billion fine In December of 2012? Maybe Prius buyers felt fuel costs were so high two years ago in 2012 that any hybrid was worth it since Toyota had addressed the sticky pedal issues (most car owners are well versed in auto manufacturer recalls these days)?
Of course Toyota maintained that the bulk of ‘unintended acceleration’ cases were due to floor mats that slid underneath accelerators and became trapped and were not the result of electronic defects in the cars’ engine computers. Not exactly standing tall and facing the music and any company that is able to offer a $1.1 billion settlement has to have more cash on hand.
It does not seem as if Toyota went out of their way to re-deliver on the Prius’ brand promise. Nothing special was done and buyers in short order flocked back to the brand making it bigger and more successful than ever before.
I just don’t understand why. Maybe you can help me?