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Advantages to Driving a Ticking Time Bomb

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Since 2005, my car of choice has been a Toyota Prius. I was wait-listed for two months on the first car, a brand new, stripped down silver job. (I am a woman of simple means and don’t need a Cadillac. I need a vehicle large enough to contain all my accoutrements. It’s also helpful if I can stuff a hand cart full of paper goods from Sam’s Club into the back seat.) It had a working CD player and heat and A/C, which was fine by me. It also gets about 45 miles per gallon, which is why I bought the thing to begin with. Certainly no one likes the way it looks, like a squashed Pre-Cambrian insect, and I was in that camp. The odd body shape starts to grow on you after a while.

This fall, my husband decided to add a few more Priuses for the fleet. I traded him my 2005 for a used 2009. It is the same color but has a nicer stereo, back up camera, in-car GPS, Bluetooth connection to my cell phone, and a double protection of floor mats. I like how I don’t have to fumble in my purse to locate my phone, so I made the swap.

Toyota has had a rough time of it in recent weeks, but I’ve remained a loyal customer – yes, even in the midst of Motown, the once Big Three, and hoards of unionized auto workers. After all, I’ve had absolutely no problem with my car, a car outfitted with double floor mats because of Michigan weather. I plan on driving it until the thing dies a natural death. There is no way I would trade it for any automobile, although if I had to, I would gladly take over my husband’s Volvo, though it’s a gas-guzzling pig in comparison.

This past week has brought several news stories about runaway Prius cars in New York and California. Ninety miles an hour and unstoppable without CHiP assistance or crashing willy-nilly into walls – this current dilemma is enough to set any heart to palpitations. Is this hybrid really a ticking time bomb? Our customers have had conniptions about why we still have the cars on the road, even though there is currently no recall on the Prius. (We pulled them off, at great expense.)

Overnight, the value of the Prius has been halved, and it’s impossible to find a usable, small car to fill the void, since everyone is jumping ship and heading for the relative perceived safety of Ford and Chevrolet.

Driving a car is not without risks and many cars have quirks. My father is a grease monkey from way back, and was my source for vehicles until I could afford a car loan. He was the first to inform me that cars are far from perfect. Back in the ‘70s, I owned a Ford LTD that regularly jumped out of park into reverse. You learn the idiosyncrasies of your vehicle and deal with it. (In my case with the LTD, I learned to keep my foot on the brake at all times, especially after I hit a car in a parking lot.)

I don’t know what is wrong with these cars, with these unusual incidents. They all of a sudden seem to be popping up all in the same week. I could plead ignorance and ignore the safety warnings. After all, I'm not having a problem. Or I could pull out my tin foil hat and blame it on a huge, left-wing right-wing conspiracy to drive what was the Number One automaker into bankruptcy, or at least out of the country. Or maybe a few people see a goldmine forming from jumping on the litigation bandwagon.

All I know is that I’m still getting 45 miles per gallon and only have to pull into a gas station every three to four weeks.

Today I took an extended trip to deliver flyers to local schools. What I noticed about driving my Prius now is that other drivers give me a wide berth. Before this week, I’d be tailgated or taunted by my fellow road warriors. I have been almost run off the road on other occasions.

Now when people see a Prius, they rush to get out of your lane.

I’m looking at the wide open road as a positive thing.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Cars

    Since Toyota can’t reproduce the scenario, there was a news story awhile back about how Toyota was working with NASA to determine if the malfunction was the result of cosmic rays affecting the microchip. Apparently satellite chips are designed with shielding and other measures to circumvent cosmic rays, but its not something that car manufacturers have thought of. The rays may put the chip into unanticipated ‘impossible’ states, that the software wouldn’t be able to handle.