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Lawsuit filed over reduced Prius fuel efficiency

A lawsuit was filed earlier this month alleging that Toyota reduced the fuel efficiency of Priuses following a safety recall. The suit contends that Toyota violated consumer protection laws by inaccurately touting the fuel efficiency of the Prius. The lawsuit seeks class-action status.

Approximately 800,000 Priuses were recalled in 2014 to fix an overheating issue with the car’s inverter, which is part of the hybrid electrical system. When the inverter overheats, the car suffers from a loss of power and enters what the car manufacturer referred to as the “imp home mode.” To remedy this issue, Toyota issued a safety recall to update the software of the inverter.

However, some drivers noticed after taking their car in for this repair, that the fuel economy dropped, sometimes by five miles per gallon while driving in the city according to The Los Angeles Times. The federal lawsuit claims that Toyota “concealed from consumers that the software reflash decreased the fuel efficiency — defeating the very purpose of owning these hybrid vehicles.” Toyota issued a statement in response to the lawsuit defending the inverter recall.

Prior to this lawsuit, the Environmental Protection Agency had rated the 2014 Prius model with 49 miles per gallon in city driving. In January 2014, Toyota notified the California Air Resources Board of the software change, but claimed that it did not make a significant difference to the fuel economy or emissions.

Documents from Toyota reveal that the company altered the software that controls the inverter as well as the software in the car’s powertrain control. Some experts who have reviewed these documents suspect that Toyota’s modification reduced the amount of power that the battery supplied and increased the dependence on the gasoline engine. This would likely cause the fuel efficiency to decrease and the emissions to increase.

This isn’t the only lawsuit Toyota is facing over this issue. A California car dealership sued Toyota over the inverter issue, claiming that the Prius has an unresolved safety defect that could leave the car without power. The lawsuit is currently set for trial in January 2019.

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