(CW44 News At 10 | CNN) -- In June, Toyota issued a warning to owners of its BZ4X electric SUV that they should stop driving the vehicle and have it transported to a dealership because of a severe problem: the wheels could fall off while driving even after just a short time on the road.
Toyota did not know why this was happening, but the automaker said it would investigate and have the problem corrected once engineers understood why the wheels were coming loose. Now, over a month later, Toyota has not yet identified the issue and is offering to simply buy back the SUVs from customers who no longer want to wait for the problem to be resolved.
Because the issue became evident soon after the SUVs went on sale, there are only about 260 BZ4X owners in the United States facing this situation. There are more who had ordered the SUV but not yet had it delivered when the "Do not drive" warning was announced. Those customers have never been able to accept delivery of their SUVs.
The automaker has offered a number of options beyond the buyback while it asks the owners for their patience. Toyota is also offering customers the free use of another Toyota vehicle until the issue is found and corrected. Toyota is also offering owners $5,000 toward their car payments or as a partial refund of the purchase price. Toyota will also extend the vehicles' factory warranty by the amount of time — whatever it ends up being — that the SUVs have been taken out of service.
For the customers who simply want to sell their vehicles back, the exact terms of the repurchase may vary depending on various state regulations and specifics of the owner's situation.
The BZ4X is nearly identical to the Subaru Solterra electric SUV. The two Japanese automakers developed the vehicles jointly. Subaru did not have to recall any SUVs in the United States, though, because none had been delivered before the problem was discovered.
Toyota is not the first automaker to recall electric vehicles in recent years. General Motors offered to buy back Chevrolet Bolt EVs following reports of battery fires. That case involved potentially many more vehicles than the relative of handful of BZ4Xes, but Bolt owners were able to, at least, continue using their vehicles with certain restrictions. GM eventually discovered the source problem and is now able to replace batteries in vehicles that needed them. GM has not said how many customers took advantage of the buy-back offer.
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