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Toyota Officially Recalls 430,000 Prius Hybrids – but Do More Problems Exist?

TheDetroitBureau’s exclusive report cautions earlier Prius model-years may also have brake problems.

by on Feb.09, 2010

Prius under the microscope: 2010 models recalled, but could braking problems plague earlier models?

Admitting his company is not “infallable,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda today announced the recall of 430,000 Prius hybrids worldwide, saying it is time for the embattled automaker to “face up to the facts” and deal with its safety problems.

The recall involves not only the latest, 2010 Prius but also another dedicated hybrid, the new Lexus HS250h.  About 127,500 vehicles are being called back in the U.S., while another 53,000 are involved in Europe.  The vast bulk of the recall affects hybrids sold in Japan, where the Prius is not just the best-selling gasoline-electric model but the top seller among all vehicles sold in Toyota’s home market.

“I don’t see Toyota as an infallible company that never makes mistakes,” said a chastened President and CEO Akio Toyoda, during a Tokyo press conference today. “We will face up to the facts and correct the problem, putting customers’ safety and convenience first.”

But even as Toyota steps up with a recall for the third-generation Prius model, which it launched last spring – addressing a problem TheDetroitBureau.com first reported on December 24, 2009 – this magazine finds there could be further brake issues with Toyota’s most popular hybrid not covered by the new service action. Click Here for the complete story.

(Prius owners with complaints should report them to the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or http://www.safercar.gov, and Toyota at 800-331-433. Have your VIN number in front of you when you call. )

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An investigative report uncovered a sizable number of complaints to federal regulators that involve Prius vehicles sold prior to the 2010 model-year.  It is yet unclear precisely how serious the potential issue is, or how extensive, but a number of owners tell TheDetroitBureau.com they experience the same sort of momentary brake loss Toyota now plans to correct on the 2010 hybrids.

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Investigation Reveals Prius Brake Problems May Preceed 2010 Model-Year

Will earlier models require recall or service actions, as well?

by on Feb.08, 2010

(c)  2009 TheDetroitBureau.com

(The following story has been revised due to breaking news of the Toyota Prius recall. Click Here for that story)

Most observers anticipate a recall of the 2010 Toyota Prius to solve brake problems, but could earlier models face similar action?

How far back do potential braking problems with the Toyota Prius – the world’s most popular hybrid and the best-selling car of all types in Japan – go?  Research by TheDetroitBureau.com suggests the answer is much further than initially believed, and could involve vehicles dating back to the 2005 model-year or even earlier.

After initially downplaying complaints by owners that 2010 Prius brakes could release unexpectedly, the troubled Japanese manufacturer’s CEO Akio Toyoda admitted the maker must “face up to facts,”  and recall 430,000 vehicles, including not only its best-selling hybrid but also the Lexus HS250h, a luxury model using essentially the same technology.

But even as Toyota prepares for another embarrassing recall, an investigation by TheDetroitBureau.com finds that complaints about the hybrid’s brakes and other traction systems may extend back well before the launch of the third-generation Prius, last spring.  This magazine’s reporting team went into the extensive National Highway Traffic Safety Administration files for the Prius and found hundreds of customer complaints either directly detailing problems with Prius brakes prior to the 2010 model-year, or outlining compound issues that appear to involve both brakes and accelerator issues.

And that’s on top of a series of other problems, such as sudden headlight failures and unexpected powertrain shutdowns, that have been identified with the vehicle, which has become a favorite for both environmentally-minded and high-tech-oriented buyers in the U.S. and abroad. (Click Here for more on that story.)

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"Braking" News!

Observers suggest a consistency to the reported Prius issues, in that most seem directly linked to the vehicle’s numerous electronics systems – a fact one of the nation’s best-known “geeks,” Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak, pointed out earlier in the week when he told various news media his car would “go wild,” at times due to an apparent glitch with its cruise control system.  And while both safety experts and Toyota officials alike have registered frustration at trying to reproduce such problems, Wozniak said he could make his Prius act up at will.

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Toyota Preparing Repair Plan for Prius

Recall likely, according to reports and internal documents.

by on Feb.07, 2010

How will Toyota handle the growing concerns about Prius brakes? An announcement is due this coming week, the maker says.

Toyota has confirmed plans it will deal with braking problems with its popular Prius hybrid model, first reported here back in December, but while a full recall is considered likely, a company source cautioned that the automaker could take less drastic steps, such as a service bulletin, which would make repairs to those who report problems to their dealers.

But with pressure mounting from regulators in the U.S., Japan and other parts of the world, it seems increasingly likely that a recall is the only way out for the maker, an embarrassing step that would drag the company’s halo vehicle – and the most popular gasoline-electric model in the world – into Toyota’s steadily worsening safety crisis.

So far, more than 8 million vehicles have been recalled by the automaker as the result of a pair of problems, including so-called carpet entrapment – in which loose floor mats can jam the throttle wide open – and sticky accelerators.  Several million of those cars, trucks and crossovers are subject to both recalls.

But while Prius is impacted by the carpet entrapment issue, it also appears to be subject to an entirely separate problem involving its compound braking system.  Under certain circumstances, when a 2010-model Prius hits a bump, pothole or slick surface, the brakes appear to release for up to a second, which at 30 miles an hour would translate into a vehicle sliding 44 feet without the ability to stop.

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Late Friday, Bob Carter, a group vice president with Toyota Motor Sales USA, sent an e-mail to U.S. dealers advising them the company is working on a fix for the problem that has been reported by well over 100 Prius owners, and should have something to announce early in the coming week.

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Toyota Admits It Knew About Prius Brake Defect!

Maker fixing new models, may need recall for older hybrids.

by on Feb.04, 2010

Toyota began fixing the 2010 Prius even though it said it only was investigating a possible "issue" with the vehicle's brakes.

Toyota owners may still be saying, “Oh, what a feeling,” but likely not for the same reason they did in the past, as the automaker’s growing problems with safety and corporate credibility emerge, Toyota officials in Japan now confirming that they have known about a defect with the brakes on their high-technology halo car, the Prius.

That problem, which can cause the brakes on the third-generation, 2010 Prius to apparently release for up to about a second, was first reported by TheDetroitBureau.com in late December. (Click here)  While Toyota acknowledged receiving reports of complaints to editor Ken Zino, the maker secretly was developing a fix for the problem, one that it quietly put into place on versions of the popular hybrid that it has been building since sometime in January.

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Your "Braking" News Source!

The latest setback for Toyota comes in sharp contrast to news that the maker earned $1.7 billion during the October-December quarter, ironically due, in large part to hefty sales of its greener models, including the Prius, which is the best-selling vehicle in Japan and the top-selling hybrid-electric vehicle worldwide.

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Is Toyota’s Image About to Crumble?

Safety issues with new Prius, if confirmed, could be devastating to maker's reputation.

by on Dec.28, 2009

Storm clouds on the horizon? A potential safety problem with the 2010 Toyota Prius could devastate the automaker's once-shining image.

What a difference a year makes, especially for Toyota.

As 2008 drew to a close, the headlines highlighted the fact that the Japanese giant had finally toppled its American arch-rival, General Motors, to become the globe’s largest auto manufacturer.  It seemed, for at least a brief while, that almost nothing could go wrong.

Now, it’s fair to say that 2009 wasn’t a good year for just about anyone in the auto business.  With the American market plunging to its lowest level in 30 years, only three niche players will end up posting sales gains from already weak ’08.  But few have suffered the humiliating body blows that have hammered away at Toyota, plunging the maker’s balance sheet deep into the red and which are, perhaps worse long-term, threatening to shatter Toyota’s image as the maker of the industry’s safest and most reliable products.

Opinion!

There’s no question that Toyota has had a few key successes over the past 12 months, including the launch of the compact Venza crossover.  And after the collapse of the hybrid market once U.S. fuel prices plunged in early ’09, the debut of the third-generation Prius promised to not only kick-start the segment but lock down Toyota’s standing as the world’s top-selling hybrid brand.

So, it’s ironic that the Prius could scrape the chrome off Toyota’s shining image.  As TheDetroitBureau.com is reporting, a sizable number of Prius owners are reporting potentially serious problems with the hybrid’s brakes.

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Green Car Top 5

Diesels vie with hybrids for annual enviro-car award.

by on Oct.07, 2009

The 2010 Toyota Prius was an obvious choice for finalist in the Green Car of the Year competition, but the list includes a few surprises.

The 2010 Toyota Prius was an obvious choice for finalist in the Green Car of the Year competition, but the list includes a few surprises.

Hybrids dominate – though just barely – in the run up to the fifth annual “Green Car of the Year,” the annual award that will be announced at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

Designed to recognize vehicles that are making significant contributions to the environment, organizers today announced the five finalists, a list that includes three hybrids: the latest version of the Toyota Prius, the reborn Honda Insight and the new Mercury Milan Hybrid, as well as two diesel-powered vehicles: the Audi A3 TDI and Volkswagen’s new Golf TDI.

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The choices reflect a few surprises.  For one thing, the midsize Mercury Milan was picked instead of the more popular Ford Fusion Hybrid.  And jurors left out several Ford “eco” models, the maker’s growing list of vehicles, such as the Taurus SHO and Flex, using the new EcoBoost gasoline engine.  Also left off were the new hybrids or diesels from General Motors, Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

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Japanese Big Three Production Plunging

Japanese auto giants slammed by downturns in home, U.S., and other global markets

by on Mar.26, 2009

The problem is that sparks are no longer flying on Japanese assembly lines as the Great Recession deepens.

Sparks are no longer flying on Japanese assembly lines as the Great Recession deepens.

While there are no indications Toyota Motor Corporation might need the same sort of desperation-driven financial bailout sought by its arch-rival General Motors Corporation, the situation is certainly getting more critical for the Japanese company, which, only last year, became the best-selling automotive manufacturer in the world. The same crisis is also affecting Honda Motor Corporation and Nissan Motor Company. All three of  these Japanese giants are shrinking from startling production cuts of 40-50% in February.

The problem is that the automotive world is getting smaller in every market the Japanese Big Three compete in.  If the latest projection by the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association holds true, that country’s new vehicle sales will hit a 32-year-low when data is tallied up at the end of the current fiscal year, which wraps up on March 31st.  For the fiscal year, Japanese sales are off a seemingly modest 8%, but that market has never really recovered from the slump it entered, more than a decade ago, and annual sales are expected to hit just 4.3 million, about half of Japan’s one-time peak.

For decades, Japanese makers like Toyota have shifted focus to export markets, such as North America, but the global slump is taking a steadily worsening toll.  For Japan, as a whole, its manufacturers – of everything from clothing to cars to computers – saw exports plunge by half last month. (more…)