Toyota To Recall Prius Hybrids Over Brake Defect, Reports Say

Toyota will soon issue a recall of 270,000 Prius hybrid vehicles in the U.S. and Japan, according to various media reports. It was only this morning that Toyota acknowledged that the brakes on some Prius vehicles had a design flaw.

According to the Associated Press, the Prius recall will involve the third-generation Prius launched in May. According to The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has received 124 reports from consumers about the Prius brakes, including four reports of crashes. As we reported previously, brakes on some Prius hybrid vehicles had temporarily stopping working on bumpy or slippery roads.

The NHTSA said today that it had opened a formal investigation into the Prius brake issue. The preliminary evaluation involves about 37,000 vehicles in the U.S., the agency said. According to the Associated Press, NHTSA investigators have already talked to consumers and conducted pre-investigatory field work.

Despite several news organizations in Japan reporting an impending Prius recall, a spokesperson for Toyota told the Associated Press that it was “too soon to call at this point.”

Earlier, Toyota’s manager in charge of quality, Hiroyuki Yokoyama, said that new Priuses experienced “a slight unresponsiveness” of the brakes which he said could be resolved by pressing harder on the brake pedal. Yokoyama blamed the problem on the Prius’ two braking systems, saying a glitch sometimes prevented the car from transitioning smoothly between the two. Toyota has acknowledged that it had already corrected the brake problem for Prius models sold since late January.

Speculation about a Prius recall comes just weeks after Toyota recalled millions of vehicles for a sudden acceleration problem. On January 21, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to accelerator pedals on those vehicles becoming stuck in a depressed position, causing unexpected and unsafe acceleration. Toyota dealers are expected to start fixing the defective accelerator pedals this weekend.

The automaker also suspended sales and production of the eight models involved in the January recall. Those models were the 2009-2010 RAV4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Avalon, certain 2007-2010 Camrys, 2010 Highlander, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia.

Just a few months prior, in September 2009, the NHTSA announced that Toyota was recalling and replacing floor mats on approximately 4.2 million vehicles which were allegedly causing accelerator pedals in the vehicles to become stuck in the depressed position, leading to uncontrollable and rapid acceleration of the vehicle.

The vehicle models recalled in September included the he 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 IS250/IS350.Some vehicles were included in both recalls.

As of January 2010, Toyota had recalled a total 5.3 million vehicles due to incidents of dangerous, unintended acceleration.

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