Toyota to Recall 2010 Prius; First of Two U.S. Hearings on Toyota Gas Pedal Issues Set for This Week

(LOS ANGELES, Feb. 8, 2010) – Toyota Motor Corp. is reporting a recall of the automaker’s 2010 model Prius to the Japanese government and also will report the recall to the U.S. government on Tuesday, according to news reports.   
The fourth best-selling vehicle in America for the automaker was joining the recall list of eight other Toyota models, according to Japanese and American news agencies.  The 2010 model hybrid is under formal investigation by U.S. highway safety officials for software-related braking problems while driving on uneven roads.  A recall may affect 37,000 U.S. vehicles sold from last May until December.
Two U.S. House committees’ hearings into Toyota vehicle safety issues related to sudden acceleration are coming up this month. One hearing is planned for Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to ask if the public is at risk.  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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) role in the Toyota safety issues.
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 environmentally-friendly car because the 2010 model’s brakes were redesigned.  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.
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.
Consumers may go online to find information regarding the automakers’ recalls at, call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331, or visit Toyota’s USA Newsroom for additional news updates. They may also call the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline 1-888-327-4236 or file an online safety complaint with NHTSA
In related news, last week Ford Motor Company announced that it’s offering to repair 17,600 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids that might make drivers feel that the brakes have failed as they attempt to stop or slow the vehicle.
The automaker said in a statement that the braking problem occurs as the car switches from a regenerative braking system to conventional hydraulic braking. Ford officials said the vehicles maintain full braking capability, but “some people may perceive that condition as a loss of brakes.  Customers with affected vehicles will receive a notice in the mail. We are asking owners of affected vehicles to have vehicle software reprogrammed at dealers at no charge.” 

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