Toyota Recalls Prius, Lexus Hybrids to Fix Brakes

Thousands of Toyota hybrids, including the <"">2010 Prius and the Lexus HS250h, are being recalled today because of faulty brakes. The recall, which involves more than 400,000 Prius, Lexus and other hybrid vehicles, is the second global recall Toyota has issued since January.

The recall involves 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles sold in the U.S.; nearly 53,000 Priuses in Europe; and 223,000 hybrids sold in Japan. The recall followed complaints from some Prius owners that brakes on the cars would temporarily stop working on bumpy or slick roads.

Last week, Toyota acknowledged that the braking system on third-generation Priuses had a design flaw, and that it had already corrected the brake problem for Prius models sold since late January. At the time Toyota said it was working on a fix for Prius hybrids already on the road.

At the same time, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it had opened a formal investigation of the Toyota Prius, model year 2010, relating to reports of momentary loss of braking capability while traveling over an uneven road surface, pothole or bump. The NHTSA said it had received 124 reports from consumers, including four reports alleging that crashes occurred.

The Prius has two braking systems: a regenerative one, in which braking friction is captured and used to recharge the car’s batteries, and a conventional one. The complaints arise from what Toyota characterizes as a software malfunction when the car switches between the two systems.

The mechanical parts that make up the brake system in the Lexus HS250h are identical to those in Toyota’s 2010 Prius, but the two gas-electric hybrid cars use different software systems to control the way the brakes are used.

In addition to the Prius and Lexus hybrid recall, Toyota has also announced a recall of its latest Camry model. The Camry recall involves 7,300 vehicles with a power steering pressure hose in the engine compartment that may be the incorrect length. This could cause a hole in the brake tube and deplete the braking fluid, interfering with braking.

At a news conference to announce the Prius recall, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said a fix for the brake problem would take about 40 minutes and be handled by dealers. Toyoda also apologized to consumers for the concern and inconvenience the Prius and other recent recalls have caused, and promised to “redouble our commitment to quality.”

This is the second time in a week that Toyoda has apologized for his company’s safety failures. He appeared at a news conference last Thursday for apologize for Toyota’s recent recalls of millions of cars for sudden acceleration problems.

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

Just a few months prior, in September 2009, Toyota announced it 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.

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