Toyota starts fixing Prius hybrid
Carmaker begins fix on faulty brakes as it struggles to rebuild consumer confidence.
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2010 10:04 GMT
Toyota has started fixing the braking problem in its top-selling Prius hybrid model [Reuters]

Toyota dealers in Japan have begun work on fixing around 200,000 Prius hybrid cars as part of a massive global recall over a potential fault in the vehicle's brakes.

The Japanese auto giant announced the recall on Tuesday, affecting some 400,000 cars around the world – the latest in a series of embarrassing safety alerts that threaten to badly dent consumer confidence in the world's biggest carmaker.

On Wednesday the company announced a further recall, this time affecting about 7,300 of its 2010 model Camrys in the US.

The company said the recall centres on a potential fault in the cars' power-steering assembly.

Although a realtively small number of cars are affected in the latest recall announcement, it will do little to help repair Toyota's tarnished reputation.

Tackling criticism

On Wednesday Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota Motor Corp, said he would head to the US next week to tackle criticism that his company moved too slowly on earlier recalls.

See also

 Timeline: Toyota's troubles
 Recalls over the years

"Let me assure everyone that we will redouble our commitment to quality as a lifeline of our company," Toyoda told a news conference in Tokyo.

Toyota said on Tuesday it was recalling a total of 437,000 units of its 2010 Prius, Sai, Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and Lexus HS250h hybrids globally, including 155,000 in North America, 223,000 in Japan and 53,000 in Europe.

The recall is to rectify a problem with the regenerative brakes that help charge the cars' electric batteries.

Some Prius drivers have reported the brakes being momentarily unresponsive in certain driving conditions, such as on bumpy roads and ice.

Toyota said repairs to fix the braking problem would take around 40 minutes per car with new software that oversees the controls of the antilock brakes.

While the recall programme has already begun in Japan, the company is yet to announce further details for Prius owners elsewhere in the world.

The Prius is Japan's top-selling car and the world's top-selling hybrid car.

US scrutiny

The latest recall came a day before Yoshimi Inaba, the head of Toyota North America, was due to testify about the recall process in Congress before the House Oversight Committee in Washington.

"The effects in the coming months will depend on how quickly Toyota can get a fix into production. The longer-term effects from lost sales to younger buyers could be much more serious"

Paul Newton, HIS Global Insight analyst

US authorities have stepped up scrutiny of Toyota, whose reputation was already on the line over fixes to more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for slipping floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals.

Toyota faces potential litigation over crashes potentially linked to the problem of unintended acceleration as well as class-action lawsuits over the brake problems with the Prius.

Shares in Toyota, which lost about a fifth of their value since late January, closed up 2.9 per cent as the market welcomed signs that the problems were finally being addressed.

But analysts said the carmaker faces long-term fallout from the crisis.

"The wave of media and government attention will not subside quickly, with lasting damage now looking unavoidable," Paul Newton, an analyst with HIS Global Insight, told the Reuters news agency.

"The effects in the coming months will depend on how quickly Toyota can get a fix into production," he added.

"The longer-term effects from lost sales to younger buyers could be much more serious, however."

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