Toyota dealer refusing to sell Prius over safety concerns

A SoCal franchisee claims a recall didn't solve a safety issue with the popular hybrid, but the automaker says it's just sour grapes.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
2 min read
2012 Toyota Prius

Toyota says that a recall fixed hundreds of thousands of Prius models, but one of its own dealers isn't convinced. According to CBS News, Roger Hogan, a franchisee in Southern California is refusing to sell select used models of the hybrid because he is concerned the issue still poses a safety risk. 

What's more, Hogan has filed a $100-million lawsuit against the automaker for fraud and breach of contract and is petitioning federal watchdogs to investigate the problem. 

According to the report, Toyota maintains that the suit isn't about safety at all -- they say it's about a grudge. (Disclosure: Roadshow by CNET and CBS News are owned by the same parent company).

2012 Toyota Prius (photos)

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The recalls, which were undertaken in 2014 and 2015, covered select 2010-2014 Prius hatchback and 2012-2014 Prius V wagon models. Around 800,000 units were part of the campaign. 

The crux of the issue, which involves a sudden loss of drive power, was blamed on an overheating inverter. Toyota performed a software fix and maintains that the issue has been properly dealt with, but Hogan says he's still seeing plenty of cars with the problem.

Hogan, who owns Claremont Toyota and Capistrano Toyota, says he's had more than 100 Prius models come into his dealerships with the inverter issue, even after the recall fix had been applied. In fact, he says he's sitting on about 50 used Prius models at his dealership worth about $1 million that he's refusing to sell because he fears they're unsafe.

2012 Toyota Prius v (photos)

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In addition to his allegations around the Prius recall, Hogan's suit claims that the automaker is attempting to keep Hogan from transferring his dealers to his sons.

When reached for comment on the matter, Toyota issued Roadshow the same statement that it did to CBS News:

"We believe Mr. Hogan's allegations are without merit, and we intend to defend vigorously against his claims. The Prius inverter recall was implemented to enhance vehicle safety, and we remain committed to the safety and security of our customers. As a part of this commitment, Toyota continues to review and monitor available information on this issue. Toyota welcomes feedback from its dealers on vehicle performance and safety; however, we believe Mr. Hogan's lawsuit is motivated primarily by a separate dispute he has with Toyota over management and succession issues involving his dealership, not the effectiveness of the Prius inverter recall."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells Roadshow, "The agency is monitoring its complaints and will take action as appropriate. Affected owners with information should contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-888-327-4236 or through www.safercar.gov."

Update 11:15 a.m. PT: Statement added from NHTSA.