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Toyota Recalling 100,000 Prius Hybrids

About half were sold in the U.S., maker says.

by on Jun.01, 2011

Toyota is recalling 106,000 earlier Prius models worldwide due to power steering problems.

Toyota has announced the recall of more than 100,000 of its Prius hybrids due to problems with electric power steering equipment.

Approximately half of the vehicles impacted by the service action, 52,000 in all, were sold in the United States.  The rest were marketed in Japan and other parts of the world, the maker said.

The recall involves only early-model Prius hybrids, those sold during the 2001 through 2003 model-years.  A second Toyota recall was also announced involving a handful of late-model crossovers and minivans.

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With the Prius recall, the maker said that, “If the steering wheel is repeatedly and strongly turned to the full-lock position, there is a possibility the nuts securing the pinion shaft in the steering gear box assembly may become loose. If the vehicle is continuously operated in this condition, over time, the customer will gradually notice significant increased steering effort when making a left turn.”

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Toyota Repairing 650,000 Prius Hybrids

by on Nov.30, 2010

Is that steam? The Toyota Prius faces another snag.

The big number recalls continue at Toyota, more than a year after the maker announced the first safety campaign caused by runaway vehicles.  The latest action involves 650,000 of Toyota’s third-generation Prius hybrid due to a defective coolant pump that can cause the vehicles to overheat and lose power.

Nearly 60% of the Prius hybrids involved in what is officially a service action were sold in the United States, according to Toyota, which says it will cover the cost of any repairs conducted at one of its dealerships.

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The maker says the problem involves an electric water pump that can slowly permit air bubbles to enter the coolant lines.  As that happens water circulation slows and temperatures rise, resulting in overheating  of the hybrid-electric componentry.

Initially, that should trigger a warning light, but if the problem is left unattended, the vehicle would drop into a “fail-safe” mode where power would be reduced.  It is not clear from Toyota’s statement whether permanent damage to the vehicle might result if the problem were still ignored.

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Toyota Suggests Runaway Prius Incident a Hoax

Backed by NHTSA, Toyota says no evidence James Sikes' Prius was out of control.

by on Mar.15, 2010

James Sikes is now at the center of the Toyota sudden acceleration crisis.

Toyota is casting further doubt on the claims of a Prius hybrid owner who last week claimed his vehicle suddenly accelerated to 94 mph on a California freeway, racing out of control until he was assisted by a highway patrol officer.

The automaker said it was unable to find a cause for the sudden acceleration incident motorist James Sikes claims occurred on March 8th.  The automaker’s position is lent support by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, whose investigators joined Toyota to analyze Sikes’ Prius last week. (Click Here: Another Report of a Prius With a Stuck Pedal?)

“While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver’s account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis,” the maker announced during a news conference Monday afternoon.

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A statement from NHTSA did leave open the possibility that the claim was valid and a cause might never be found, however.

“We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car,” the safety agency noted in a statement.

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Q&A: Toyota’s Don Esmond

"We stumbled," admits vet, but incentives are helping sales.

by on Mar.11, 2010

"Our owners deserve an answer," says Toyota's Senior Vice President Don Esmond.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s back in 1969 and I’m flying medevacs, taking fire and occasionally getting hit,” says Don Esmond, a slight grimace showing through his smile.

A decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, Toyota’s senior vice president of automotive operations is once again maneuvering through a battleground, but this time it’s the company taking flak for an ongoing series of safety issues that have led to the recall of more than 8 million vehicles – and which have been tentatively linked to a rising number of accidents, injuries and fatalities.

In typical fashion, Esmond has been focused on his mission, or more precisely, missions.  The first challege, he says, is to make sure Toyota’s products are safe, even if that meant briefly shutting down five U.S. assembly lines.  With the plants going, the next step is getting all products involved in the recalls repaired.

But longer-term, Toyota has to rebuild a seriously tarnished image and regain its once daunting momentum – something Esmond admits will be “a little more difficult under the circumstances.”  But a new incentive campaign, putting as much as $3,000 on the hood of some Toyota models may be doing its job, early sale numbers suggest.

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To get a better sense of what’s happening and what’s ahead for Toyota, TheDetroitBureau.com caught up with the veteran Esmond in the midst of a series of “fireside chats” with the company’s dealers.

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Toyota Not Ready With Fix for Prius “Carpet Entrapment” Recall

Maker focusing on other safety campaigns first.

by on Mar.11, 2010

Toyota has yet to begin repairing '07 - '10 Prius hybrids for a "carpet entrapment" problem.

Though Toyota announced the recall of 2007 through early 2010 Prius sedans, back in October, to fix a problem with so-called “pedal  entrapment,” the maker says it is still not ready to start making repairs to the hybrid.

There is no set date, but “we’re hoping very soon” to notify owners to begin bringing their Prius sedans into service centers for repairs, Sean Gilligan, a Toyota field technical specialist, tells TheDetroitBureau.com.

Part of what is known internally as the “90L” recall, the broader recall campaign was announced last October. It targets vehicles where accelerator pedals can inadvertently be jammed open by loose carpet or mats.  Originally, Toyota said that 3.8 million vehicles, including Camry and Avalon, as  well as Prius, were affected by the problem.  Since the beginning of the year, the automaker has expanded the number of models covered by the recall to more than 5 million.

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There were several challenges, Gilligan explains, before the recall can be completed.  First, Toyota has had to identify the problem, then develop a fix which can vary by model.  The carmaker started by focusing on higher-volume models, like Camry and Avalon.

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Wall Street Journal Wrong. No New Prius Recall

Media feeding frenzy continues as false reports run rampant.

by on Mar.10, 2010

While the latest Prius incident near San Diego raises questions thus far unanswered, Toyota is not changing its previous recall on the hybrid.

The Wall Street Journal started a media feeding frenzy yesterday when it reported, inaccurately, that Toyota plans to announce a new recall for the 2004-2009 Prius to attend to the potential risk for floor mat entrapment of accelerator pedals.

Toyota told me “no new recall being planned for the Prius to address this issue.”

Whether this ultimately holds remains to be seen.

For the record, the 2004-2009 Prius was part of Toyota’s November 2, 2009 announcement of a safety recall campaign to address floor mat entrapment in millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

How a major news organization, apparently, ran with such a story without checking with Toyota, and before confusing or frightening hundreds of thousands of Toyota owners is a sign of just how out of hand the Toyota matter is.  The story was then picked up by many outlets.

This mistake is nothing, of  course, when compared with the now infamous ABC News false report on Toyota unintended acceleration,  which aired just prior to a congressional hearing. In the demonstration aired by ABC on February 22, Professor Gilbert, assisted by ABC reporter Brian Ross, asserted that he had detected a “dangerous” flaw in the Toyota electronic control system that he alleged could lead to unintended acceleration. (Click Here. )

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Other models involved in this previously-announced floor mat recall include 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2007-2010 ES 350, 2006-2010 IS 250, and 2006-2010 IS 350.

On January 27, 2010, Toyota expanded the campaign to include the 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Venza, 2009-2010 Matrix and 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe.   (more…)

Honda Says Quality Not Issue at CR-Z Hybrid Debut

Japanese maker aims to regain momentum in hybrid segment.

by on Feb.26, 2010

Honda is launching its latest dedicated hybrid, the CR-Z, and insisting it won't run into the hybrid braking problems of Toyota's Prius.

Just what impact the safety scandal at Toyota will have on the rest of the automotive market is uncertain, but the Japanese maker’s arch-rival, Honda, is working to ensure it won’t be tainted, as well.

“Product quality is extremely important to us,” asserted Honda CEO Takanobu Ito, as the maker officially debuted its latest gasoline-electric hybrid model, the CR-Z, during a Tokyo news conference.

Initial sales reports hint that Honda may be picking up Toyota buyers, especially in the U.S. market, where the safety crisis has been widely covered by the media.

But, like other makers, Ito avoided any appearance of gloating over Toyota’s ongoing woes.  If anything, he appeared to take a cautious position about growth and the potential it brings to start making mistakes.

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Ito spoke just days after his Toyota counterpart, CEO Akio Toyoda, was grilled by an American Congressional Committee.

But it was only a few weeks earlier that Honda had to expand the recall of products including the 2001 and 2002 Accord sedan, Civic compact and Odyssey minivan because of faulty airbags.  Since the first defect announcement, 15 months ago, the number of vehicles on the callback list has grown to 437,000.

The Japanese maker did make a point of emphasizing that the 2011 Honda CR-Z uses a different braking system from the 2010 Toyota Prius and, Honda promised, would not suffer the same problems — in which brakes can unexpectedly release when a Prius hits a bump or a slick patch of road,

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Toyota’s Carter Concedes Automaker “Made a Couple of Mistakes”

Challenge is to focus on safety and “get that credibility back.”

by on Feb.10, 2010

Mistakes were made, but Toyota is working to fix safety problems and regain credibility, says Group Vice President Bob Carter.

Though the company hasn’t intentionally set out to cover up or otherwise hide problems with its vehicles, there’s no question Toyota has “made a couple mistakes,” Group Vice President Bob Carter acknowledged during an exclusive interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.

The automaker has been besieged since, last month in the mainstream media when  it announced a second recall for so-called “unintended acceleration” caused by potentially sticky accelerators.

The situation grew worse, just this week, with its decision to recall 440,000 Prius hybrids, worldwide, due to a braking problem first identified by editor Ken Zino of TheDetroitBureau.com back in December, and which Toyota initially denied.

(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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Those and some other problems have raised concerns about Toyota’s products and policies, tarnishing a seemingly bullet-proof reputation that it honed over the 50 years since it first entered the American marketplace.

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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

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(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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