(LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9, 2010) – As anticipated, Toyota Motor Corp. announced today a voluntary recall of the automaker’s 2010 Prius to update computer software for braking problems while driving on uneven and slippery roads, according to the manufacturer. The second-largest U.S. manufacturer also will recall the 2010 Lexus HS 250h vehicles for the software fix as well.
The recall, the third for Toyota in recent months, affects 155,000 of the 2010 Prius vehicles and 14,500 Lexus HS 250h vehicles worldwide, according to Toyota. The recall includes approximately 37,000 U.S. vehicles sold from last May until December, mostly in California, the Prius’ largest market. The automaker changed its braking system software in January as part of what it called "constant quality improvements."
Toyota has sold 1.2 million Priuses worldwide since 1997. Last year, it was Toyota’s third-best-selling American car, behind the Camry and the Corolla.
American owners are expected to receive letters in the mail next week regarding the recall of the Prius and Lexus HS 250h. However, drivers should contact their Toyota dealer immediately if they’re concerned now about their vehicle’s braking performance. Some owners have described the problem as a delay or odd sensation in the brakes, according to news reports.
“Loss of braking is most likely to occur when traveling over an uneven road surface, pothole or bump," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement. "If this occurs, the agency advises owners to continue to firmly press on the brake to stop the vehicle. As an extra precaution, drivers can leave extra stopping distance."
Because of the software problem, a vehicle going 60 mph will travel nearly another 90 feet before the brakes begin to take hold. Prius’ brakes that “release” for a up to a second while going just 30 mph, would continue forward 44 feet, or approximately three more car lengths, which could lead to hitting another vehicle.
The Prius, noted for its environmentally-friendly fuel economy, joined the recall list of eight other Toyota models involving more than 8 million vehicles. The 2010 hybrid is under formal investigation by U.S. highway safety officials.
There have been 124 related reports of problems with Prius brakes nationwide, including four reports alleging that crashes occurred, according to a NHTSA announcement. The problem doesn’t appear to affect earlier makes of the green 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.
Toyota also will be recalling some 2010 Camrys prone to bake fluid leaks, according to NHTSA. Toyota says that dealers will inspect the cars for a power steering hose of incorrect length that could touch a brake tube, cause a leak and make the vehicle take longer to come to a stop.
Two U.S. House committees’ hearings into Toyota vehicle safety issues related to sudden acceleration are coming up this month. One hearing has been rescheduled due to heavy snow for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Expected to testify at the hearing is Toyota’s North America Chairman Yoshi Inaba, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, NHTSA and two safety experts.
The hearing is expected to examine the federal government’s response to Toyota’s recall of millions of vehicles after reports of malfunctioning gas pedals. Lawmakers will also probe the causes of the sudden acceleration problem and discuss solutions for the issue. Also likely is for committee members to bring up today’s recall of the 2010 Prius and other hybrids over brake problems.
This session is in addition to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Thursday, Feb. 25, hearing to delve into consumer complaints related to Toyota vehicles. The committee chairman also has said that the energy committee would be examining NHTSA’s role in Toyota safety issues.
In related recall news, Kelley Blue Book
, an Irvine-based auto pricing data company, said that Toyota values have dropped 2.5% to 4.5%, or $300 to $750, in recent weeks. In Toyota showrooms, new Prius hybrids had a sales incentive of $1,000 attached to them.
The Auto Club reminds motorists that no Scion vehicles were affected by Toyota’s recalls. 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.