Toyota: "Your Prius is already 25 years old! Please change your car!" Japanese drivers upset lifetime battery warranty ends
Hans · Oct 13, 2023 11:44 AM
This is rather odd. Japanese owners of the first generation XW10 Toyota Prius are upset with Toyota for discontinuing a supposedly lifetime battery warranty for their cars, many of which are nearly 25 years old (and still running strong!).
Last month, Toyota sent a letter to affected owners of XW10 Toyota Prius made between 1997 to 2000, saying that the company will be discontinuing its lifetime battery warranty for the model by March 2024, because it's getting increasingly difficult to source batteries used by a 25-year old Prius.
Some loyal fans of the original Prius that started the hybrid trend, who after nearly 25 years, are still refusing to move on to a newer car, didn’t take notice well.
They claimed that Toyota is backtracking on its promise of giving lifetime battery warranty (to be clear, car's lifetime is legally defined as 15 years / 250,000 km).
Others however were impressed to learn that Toyota has been quietly giving free battery replacements for customers for over two decades, and agree that after 20 years, it is time to move on and the company has done more than enough.
Not all customers enjoy the lifetime battery warranty. Only pre-facelift cars made between 1997 to 2000 enjoy the benefit. The reason was because the first-generation Toyota Prius, being the pioneering car that it was then, wasn’t as reliable as Toyota had hoped (seriously? Many owners are still holding on to it).
The early generation batteries are prone to premature failure if the Prius is left parked for a long time or when subjected to repeated hard acceleration and braking. A warning message saying limited power output will be shown and there is no permanent fix to the problem, other than to keep replacing the battery.
The vastly improved facelift model launched in 2001 didn’t have this problem but Toyota appreciated the trust given by early Prius customers, who were willing to try an unproven product. So to these customers, the company offered a lifetime (15 years) battery replacement service, even after the car’s warranty has expired.
But after more than 20 years of offering the service, it is time to stop.
From translation, Toyota’s letter to Japanese customer reads:
"Until now, we have been conducting free inspections of HV batteries at the nearest authorized sales and service centers. However, it has been more than 20 years since production ceased, and the continued supply of parts has become difficult. Therefore, we regret to inform you that as of March 31, 2024, we will be discontinuing the 'Service Campaign* Repairs (Free),' and we deeply apologize for this. We would like to inform you as follows:
"*Note: A service campaign is when the manufacturer, from the perspective of product quality improvement and other factors, notifies the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan, contacts customers, and conducts inspections and repairs if deemed necessary."
The letter asked owners to schedule an appointment with their nearest Toyota dealer to have one last inspection before the service ends. Recapping the fault, Toyota said:
"In the case of HV batteries, if they are not used for a long period or if the vehicle undergoes repeated rapid acceleration and deceleration, there is a risk that the difference in charging capacity among the battery cells may become significant, making it more likely for output limit warning lights to illuminate."
Toyota ended by saying, "We sincerely thank you for your long-standing patronage of the Prius. In the future, we will continue to strive for the development of attractive products that are loved by all, and we will make even greater efforts to respond to the voices and requests of our customers. Therefore, we humbly request your continued support and patronage in the future."
Closer to home, only the third generation XV30 Toyota Prius was launched in Malaysia. Just a small number, totaling just 6,159 units were sold in the five-year period between 2009 until 2014. Most we sold between 2010 to 2013, when the government gave 100 percent exemptions for import and excise tax for imported hybrids.
Of the 6,000 plus Priuses sold by UMW Toyota Motor, many are still driven daily and are a common sight on local roads.
The oldest of these cars are now nearly 15 years old and are in need major repairs for wear-and-tear items – suspension bushes, arms, linkages, and steering rack (the weakest part of this otherwise very reliable car). Some may need very costly near five-figure replacements for the electric brake pump and electric air-conditioning compressor.
Contrary to popular opinion, battery replacement is the least of the concern for anyone buying a used Prius. Batteries for Japanese hybrids are the cheapest and easiest to source, costing no more than the latest mid-high-end Samsung smartphone. Apart from replacing it with an original battery, there are also plenty of cheaper OEM and refurbished battery options on the market. Prices of inverters have also dropped considerably, with new units now costing less than the high voltage battery.
Also, the third generation Prius, the only one we had, has a reputation of being the weakest Prius ever (steering rack, low ground clearance, and suspension parts that don't hold up well to poorly paved roads), with the second generation one being the most durable, according to Cambodian taxi drivers, but their benchmark and usage conditions are on a whole different level of abuse.
The latest fifth generation Toyota Prius is currently the fourth best-selling car in Japan (last 6 months, April to September, excluding kei minicars), ranking behind the Toyota Sienta, Corolla, and No.1 selling Yaris. However, if you consider the fact that the Corolla's and Yaris's ranking include derivative models like the Corolla Cross, Corolla Sport, Corolla Sedan, and Yaris Cross, the Prius may actually be among the top-3 best-selling individual model in Japan.
Since the Prius is only made in Japan, high import and excise duties mean that UMW Toyota Motor is unlikely to launch the model here. With taxes, prices could easily balloon to over RM 250k, way above the RM 139k and RM 145k the third-generation model was sold in Malaysia.
With the tax-free Tesla Model Y and Model 3 priced below RM 200,000, it makes no sense to introduce the heavily taxed Prius here.