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Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP13-002

American Government Topics:  Toyota Prius

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP13-002

Nancy Lummen Lewis
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
July 31, 2014

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 147 (Thursday, July 31, 2014)]
[Pages 44487-44491]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17983]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP13-002

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Denial of petition for a defect investigation.


SUMMARY: This notice states the reasons for denying a Defect Petition 
(DP) (DP 13-002) submitted under 49 CFR parts 552 by Ms. Jessie A. 
Powell of Middleboro, MA (petitioner) in a January, 2013 letter to the 
Administrator of NHTSA (the ``Agency''). The petitioner requested that 
the Agency open an investigation into software and brake failures on 
model year (MY) 2012 Toyota Prius C vehicles (the ``Subject 
    After reviewing materials in-hand, those furnished by the 
petitioner, and upon completing an inspection of her vehicle, NHTSA 
sees no indication that additional investigation would lead to a 
finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists. NHTSA has 
concluded that further investigation of the issue raised in the 
petition is not warranted. The Agency accordingly has denied the 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jeff Price, Office of Defects 
Investigation (ODI), NHTSA; 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 
20590. Telephone: (202) 366-5410. Email: jeffrey.price@dot.gov.



    Pursuant to 49 CFR 552.1, interested persons may petition NHTSA 
requesting that the Agency initiate an investigation to determine 
whether a motor vehicle or item of replacement equipment does not 
comply with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard or contains a 
defect that relates to motor vehicle safety. Upon receipt of a properly 
filed petition, the Agency conducts a technical review (Sec.  552.6) of 
the petition, material submitted with the petition, and any appropriate 
additional information. After considering the technical review and 
taking into

[[Page 44488]]

account appropriate factors, which may include, among others, 
allocation of Agency resources, Agency priorities, and the likelihood 
of success in litigation that might arise from a determination of 
noncompliance or a defect related to motor vehicle safety, the Agency 
will grant or deny the petition (Sec.  552.8).

Background Information

Petition Overview

    On January 3, 2013, NHTSA received a letter (ODI No. 10487746) from 
Ms. Jessie A. Powell petitioning the agency to investigate drivability 
and braking concerns in the subject vehicle.

Petition Main Points

    The petition expressed two concerns:
    1. ``The first software problem was when the vehicle shifted from 
battery to motor and caused such impact, I initially believed the 
vehicle had been struck in the rear.''
    2. ``The next more alarming problem was NO BRAKES. The brake pedal 
traveled to the floor and a dashboard warning light flashed.''
    This symptom occurred twice, leading to the vehicle being towed to 
the dealership, the second time in the dealership parking lot after 
diagnostics of the first incident.

ODI Analysis of the Defect Petition Request

    ODI's petition review included the following;
     Review of the petition and its enclosures;
     Assessment of petition vehicle history;
     Inspection of the Petitioners vehicle on April 4, 2013;
     Inspection of an additional complaint vehicle in June of 
2013; and Review of potentially related VOQs.

Powell Vehicle History

Mar 3, 2012--Build Date (DTC History)
Apr 23, 2012--10 mi Date of First Use (DTC History/Vehicle History 
Apr 27, 2013--110 mi Passed Safety Inspection (Vehicle History Report)
May 8, 2012--Rough transition from battery to motor (Petition)
May 15, 2012--Brake pedal to floor, dashboard warning light, behavior 
repeated at home, and vehicle towed to dealership (Petition) \1\

    \1\ Note--Improper mileage of 841 entered by Dealership on May 
15, 2012. Correct mileage 831 miles on May 15, 2012 and inspection 
date Apr 4, 2013.

May 17, 2012 841 mi--DTC pulled: U0151, U0293, U0100, P3000, U0101 Same 
brake symptoms as previous, at dealership (Petition)
Apr 4, 2013 831 mi--Vehicle inspection by NHTSA and Toyota 

    On Apr 4, 2013, ODI met with the petitioner, representatives from 
Toyota, and legal counsel for both parties at a Toyota dealership. 
Included in the visit were an interview of the petitioner, basic 
inspection of the subject vehicle, and test drives of the subject 
vehicle and an exemplar.
    Ms. Powell was interviewed to collect specific details concerning 
her complaint and then accompanied by NHTSA personnel while she test-
drove her vehicle in the same dealership parking lot, duplicating the 
complaint condition. NHTSA personnel also drove the vehicle with Ms. 
Powell present and experienced the complaint condition. Specifically, 
the vehicle was test driven according to the same driving cycle 
described by the owner. The condition was found to be normal operation 
of the ``hill holder'' feature of the vehicle. The dashboard warning 
light Ms. Powell referred to in her complaint was the flashing light 
described in the ``Hill Holder'' operation section of the owner's 
manual. This function allows the vehicle brake system to apply brakes 
to keep the vehicle from rolling backwards while on a hill. This 
vehicle feature was explained to Ms. Powell by NHTSA personnel. Ms. 
Powell neither accepted nor denied the explanation of what was 
occurring in her vehicle. At no time was there any ``jolt'' from the 
battery during the transition from battery to gas engine operation. The 
vehicle was then put on a hoist where the vehicle powertrain, brake 
systems and complete electrical system were checked. All computer 
systems were checked for Diagnostic Trouble Codes. The codes found were 
due to a discharged battery. This vehicle had been parked and unused 
for many months, requiring a jump start to move it into position for 
the inspection.
    Hill Assist Control (HAC), a feature intended to prevent the 
vehicle from rolling backwards when starting from a stationary position 
on an incline, is described in the Prius C Quick Start Guide and 
Owner's Manual:


[[Page 44489]]



[[Page 44490]]


VOQs Pertaining to the 2012 Prius

    All 133 consumer complaints filed with NHTSA as of July 16, 2014 
for the three MY 2012 Prius variants \2\ (only four pertained to the 
Prius C variant subject to this petition) were reviewed for signs of 
the jolting symptom cited early in the petition. None of them indicated 
experiencing jolting sensations in routine driving similar to those 
reported by the petitioner.

    \2\ Prius, Prius C, Prius V.

    Further review identified no trend of the brake behavior reported 
by the petitioner (brake pedal to the floor along with the VSC light).


    After a test drive and vehicle inspection, no actionable problem 
was found within the petitioner's vehicle. The braking concern reported 
turned out to be normal vehicle operation. Broader review of the 
consumer complaints reported for all variants of the subject vehicle 
showed no indication that either the reported jolting sensation or the 
brake performance concerns reported are occurring in this vehicle 
population at a level that would require investigative action by NHTSA.
    The petitioner identified other complaints of poor braking 
performance and low brake pedal received by NHTSA concerning Prius 
models. The following recalls by Toyota were to address many of these 
complaints. Neither of these recalls is applicable to Ms. Powell's 2012 
Prius C.
    1. Recall 10V-039 March 5, 2010--Reprogramming ABS ECU--Improve 
Antilock brake function over bumpy surfaces.
    2. Recall 13V-235 August 7, 2013--Replace Brake Booster/Pump 
assembly--Low brake pedal due to nitrogen bubble in hydraulic portion 
of brake system.


    In the Agency's view, additional investigation is unlikely to 
result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety 
exists. Therefore, in view of the need to allocate and prioritize NHTSA 
limited resources to best accomplish the Agency's safety mission, the 
petition is denied. This action does not constitute a finding by NHTSA 
that a safety-related defect does not exist. The Agency will take 
further action if warranted by future circumstances.

[[Page 44491]]

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at CFR 
1.95 and 501.8.

Nancy Lummen Lewis,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2014-17983 Filed 7-30-14; 8:45 am]

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