Toyota is recalling 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles worldwide to fix brake problems – the latest embarrassing safety lapse at the world’s largest automaker.
“I don’t see Toyota as an infallible company that never makes mistakes,” President Akio Toyoda said at a news conference Tuesday. “We will face up to the facts and correct the problem, putting customers’ safety and convenience first.”
The number of vehicles recalled globally by Toyota Motor Corp. now has ballooned to 8.5 million, including for floor mats that can trap gas pedals and faulty gas pedals that are slow to return to the idle position. The 2010 model of the Prius – the world’s top-selling hybrid and Japan’s top-selling car – wasn’t part of the earlier recalls.
There have been about 200 complaints in Japan and the U.S. about a delay when the brakes in the Prius were pressed in cold conditions and on some bumpy roads. The delay doesn’t indicate a brake failure. The company says the problem can be fixed in 40 minutes with new software that oversees the controls of the antilock brakes.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Tuesday that Toyota’s leaders have assured him they are taking safety concerns “very seriously.” The statement said LaHood’s agency will stay in constant communication with Toyota to hold the company to its promise.
Also, State Farm, the largest auto insurer in the U.S., said it alerted federal regulators late in 2007 about a rise in reports of unexpected acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Congressional investigators are looking into whether the government missed warning signs.
Toyota officials went to Japan’s Transport Ministry earlier Tuesday to formally notify officials the company is recalling the 2010 Prius gas-electric hybrid. The automaker is also recalling two other hybrid models in Japan, the Lexus HS250h sedan, sold in the U.S. and Japan, and the Sai, which is sold only in Japan.
The 223,000 cars being recalled in Japan include nearly 200,000 Priuses sold from April last year through Monday, according to papers the automaker filed with the ministry.
In the U.S., Toyota will recall 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles. Nearly 53,000 Priuses are also being recalled in Europe. Toyota is suspending production of the Sai and Lexus HS250h in Japan until the updated software for those models is ready.