Toyota Motor Co. is recalling about 340,000 Prius hybrids after receiving reports of a potential defect with the car’s parking brakes.
About 92,000 of the recent-model Prius hatchbacks were sold in the United States. Most of the others, about 212,000 in all, were sold in the home Japanese market. Vehicles shipped to Europe and Australia are also covered by the order.
The Japanese automaker ordered the recall after it “received reports of crashes, injuries and deaths,” though Toyota has not released specific details and said it is “still looking into the reports.”
In a statement, the Japanese maker said that, “On the involved vehicles, there is a possibility that the parking brake could become inoperative.” In a situation where “the driver exits the vehicle with the transmission in a gear other than ‘Park’ while the ignition is on, the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of a crash.”
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Rollaways have been a problem for a number of manufacturers in recent years, though the biggest concern, of late, has involved a new generation of so-called e-shifters, electronic transmissions using non-traditional shift levers that might be moved, inadvertently to a gear different from what the driver had expected.
Such an issue led to a recall, earlier this year, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and has been tentatively linked to the death of actor Anton Yelchin, best known for his role in the latest series of Star Trek films.
Toyota did not say if the Prius problem could also cause a vehicle rollaway while the vehicle was shut off, but a brake failure in a vehicle left in the Neutral position could be vulnerable.
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The Japanese maker said it will notify owners of the problem next month and will make repairs at no charge. It “will add clips on the top of the brake cable dust boots to prevent the cable from becoming inoperative.”
This is one of the most significant recalls involving the fourth-generation Toyota Prius which was introduced in September 2015. The recall covers vehicles marketed during the 2016 and 2017 model-years built at the Tsutumi plant in Toyota City, Japan, from August 2015 through October 2016.
Toyota has had other brake issues in the past. A software problem with the “blended” hydraulic and regenerative brake system that recaptures energy for the battery was found to occasionally stutter during hard braking incidents on older models. In some instances it could cause the sense that the brakes weren’t working. Toyota ultimately ordered a recall.
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The world’s most popular hybrid has had a generally low incidence of safety-related issues, but nearly 500,000 older Prius hybrids and the similar Lexus CT200h hybrids were recalled in June due to a side-curtain airbag defect.