(LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5, 2010) – The close of the work week brought more problems for Toyota Motor Corp., when the Prius, the fourth best-selling vehicle in America for the automaker, was potentially joining the recall list of eight other Toyota models. The 2010 model hybrid is under formal investigation by highway safety officials for braking problems affecting potentially 37,000 U.S. vehicles when driven on uneven roads.
As of Friday afternoon, there is still no U.S. recall of Toyota Prius vehicles. However, there are several news organizations reporting that Toyota will recall 270,000 Prius models worldwide to repair the alleged brake problem. These reports have not been confirmed by Toyota or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at this time.
If a recall announcement were to be made, as was indicated, that would affect 270,000 Prius vehicles worldwide focusing on Prius models sold from May to December 2009.
There have been 124 reports of problems with Prius brakes nationwide, including four reports alleging that crashes occurred, according to NHTSA announcement. The problem doesn’t appear to affect earlier makes of the environmentally-friendly car because the 2010 model’s brakes were redesigned.
No fatalities were involved, according to news reports about the braking configuration that involves brake pads and a second system (called regenerative braking that uses the vehicle’s electric motor as a generator to recharge the batteries and improve the vehicle’s efficiency). Prius’ computer braking software tells the car which system to use. Because of the software problem, a vehicle going 60 mph will have traveled nearly another 90 feet before the brakes begin to take hold.
The automaker changed its braking system software in January as part of what it called "constant quality improvements," but did not say what it would do about vehicles manufactured before then.
Toyota also announced that it has expanded a braking system-related safety probe into all its hybrid models such as the Lexus HS250h and SAI luxury hybrid sedans (the SAI is a redesign of the Lexus HS250 hybrid and sold in Japan).
Also, at the end of the week, the grandson of the Toyota founder, Akio Toyoda, and currently president and chief executive of the world’s largest automaker, apologized to car owners globally at a news conference.
"I am deeply sorry about the inconvenience and concern caused to our customers and others," a tight-faced Akio Toyoda said today at the company's headquarters in Nagoya, Japan.
He pledged to assemble a global automotive quality control task force to oversee and review customer complaints, and also to review causes of the recall by studying Toyota’s process of design, production, sales and service so they can be improved.
For U.S. motorists, the week wound down with some Toyota customers getting repairs made on recalled vehicles caused by floor mat and sticky accelerator pedal safety issues. Vehicle repairs to gas pedals at Toyota dealerships were aired by CNN and other news organizations.
Toyota dealers this week also began to sell cars that were on the recall list because there were enough parts available to repair consumers’ cars, fix dealer-owned vehicles and get them back on the showroom floors and lots again.
In related news of interest to motorists, Ford Motor Corp announced that it wanted drivers who own Ford Fusion Hybrids and Mercury Milan Hybrids to bring their cars to Ford dealers for new software to fix their hybrids’ brakes.
Ford is planning to mail letters to their customers to request they bring in their vehicle, whether they’ve experienced problems with the brakes or not, for the new software. The problem relates to dual brake systems in Ford hybrids where drivers feel the pedal depressing more to the floor than is typical.
Consumers may contact Toyota regarding the automakers’ recalls and the Prius braking issue at 1-800-331-4331, the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline 1-888-327-4236, or go to Toyota’s USA Newsroom, http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/default.aspx for updates.
The Auto Club reminds motorists that no Scion vehicles were affected by Toyota’s recall actions. Also not affected by the recalls and still for sale are: Sienna, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and select Camry models, including Camry hybrids.