The warranty extension is only offered to owners who experience the problem. But people who have already paid out of pocket for a new actuator or brake-pedal stroke sensor may be eligible for reimbursement.
Toyota’s action was prompted, at least in part, by many consumer complaints lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Over the last several years, owners have complained of loss of braking performance, increased pedal effort, and other difficulties. The NHTSA opened an official inquiry in January, asking Toyota for its record of complaints and other data. The NHTSA cited 59 complaints of defective brakes.
We've found that today the number of power-brake complaints for those two model years has risen to 269, with 14 crashes and five injuries.
While NHTSA’s information request concerned only 2007 and 2008 Camry Hybrids, Toyota’s eventual response—the service campaign and the warranty extension—broadened the scope to include all years from 2007 through 2011, and it will apply to an estimated 177,500 vehicles.
We think Toyota’s proper action would be a recall. Greatly diminished brake function is a serious safety concern. A recall is more comprehensive and widely published than a mere service campaign, and owners don’t have to wait for a problem to happen before qualifying for the repair. Besides that, unlike extended warranties, recalls don’t expire and are performed proactively.
If you have a safety complaint—a condition you believe could cause death or injury—contact the NHTSA at www.safercar.org or by phone at 888-327-4236. You can bring questions and complaints about Toyota vehicles directly to the company by calling 888-270-9371.
—Gordon Hard and Seung Min Yu