In a world-class demonstration of “misplacing” something, Miami-Dade county in Florida lost nearly 300 Toyota Priuses six years ago. Recently they were found, by accident, rusting away unused in a warehouse.
$4 million from taxpayers
The Priuses were bought with $4 million of taxpayer money in 2006 to fill out the county fleet with low-polluting, fuel- efficient hybrid vehicles. However, for whatever reason, they were never deployed.
A piece in a Spanish newspaper
The whereabouts of the vehicles would probably still be unknown but for a piece in El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish language newspaper in Southern Florida, that speculated about the cars parked in a warehouse located at 2100 41st Street Northwest in the Miami suburb of Earlington Heights.
Still under warranty
Realizing the political storm that is sure to hit, the county immediately incorporated 123 of the forgotten cars into its fleet, though it is not known if they were in drivable condition. Although Toyota’s warranty — still inside each of the never-driven, parked vehicles — covers some of its hybrid parts for up to eight years or 100,000 miles, it will likely not pay for the damage caused by six years of complete neglect.
But likely not covered
Although the condition of the vehicles has not been reported by the county, it is likely, according to Torque News, that they have rusted, given the region’s humidity. Autoblog says it is unsure what kind of damage could have occurred to the neglected hybrid powertrain, “but it can’t be good.”
Forgotten again in 2010
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto admitted that a county employee told him about the parked vehicles two years ago. Why no action was taken at that time is unknown.
How the cars disappeared from the county’s radar in the first place is still a mystery and is under investigation. Miami-Dade County Commission President Joe Martinez launched the probe on Thursday.
Martinez told the El Nuevo Herald that it has happened before, though did not elaborate as to when:
“These new vehicles were bought out of control package and were stationed in a building for years. This is not the first time it happens. So you have to investigate this case and determine exactly what happened so it does not happen again.”
An ousted mayor
Although unconfirmed, investigators believe the astonishing snafu occurred during the period that Miami Mayor Carlos Alverez was facing a recall. Alverez was eventually ousted following accusations of “multiple acts of misappropriation of funds.”
The continuing investigation will no doubt uncover many interesting facts before the matter is put to bed.