Woman has "high-tech" car troubles

August 19, 2008 2:51:27 PM PDT
The Toyota Prius is one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road today. It uses a high-tech combination of gas and battery power to sip fuel while driving you down the highway, but is it too high tech?One Houston woman thinks so.

The Prius is extremely popular right now -- in fact, there are waiting lists to get one, but a Houston woman says the car is too complex for her taste.

When Mary Norris made the leap from a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria to a new a Toyota Prius, she never imagined the mess she'd land in.

"A Prius is a wonderful car, but you have to be computer savvy to do it," Norris said.

Norris, who is in her seventies, says the Prius is just too complicated for her to figure out.

For starters, the car has no key, just a pod that plugs into the dashboard. Drivers then press a button to turn the car on, but the engine remains off until the gas pedal is pressed.

But even opening the passenger door became an issue.

Another problem: Norris can't figure out the wiper system. She can turn on the back wipers, but not the front ones -- both are activated using the controller on the steering column.

Norris also has a tough time understanding the air conditioning system. Besides two separate ways to turn the air conditioning on and off, you have to set the temperature kind of like you do on a home thermostat, something Norris also could not do.

"When the air [conditioning] would not work anymore for me, [the car] has just sat here for two-and-a-half weeks and it's a dog gone shame, just a shame," Norris said.

Norris adds the touch screen information center also can be confusing, too.

She drove the car just 120 miles in six weeks.

The dealership that sold Norris the car tried to teach her the system, but is now taking the car back.

"It makes me feel a lot better than I felt, I tell you," she said.

Norris got a big break from the dealership -- most do not allow customers to return a vehicle, even though many consumers believe they have a three day grace period.

"There has never been a cool off period for the industry," Dan Parsons of the Houston Better Business Bureau said. "There has never been a buyer's remorse period."

Norris is getting all of her money back and the dealership is going to resell the car.

While this worked out for Norris, remember, if you buy a car you do not have a three day grace period to take it back.

However, Texas does have a lemon law that helps buyers of new cars. If you have a lemon, there are consumer protections in place. But, the lemon law does not apply to used cars.

There is also the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Uniform Commercial Code that can help you. For more information, check out the Consumer Blog.

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