Nearly 200 reports of brake problems with the 2010 Toyota Prius have the troubled car company considering a recall of the newest model of their famous hybrid vehicle, even while they are still reeling from the fallout a massive recall that has pulled millions of cars off the road due to Toyota problems with sudden acceleration.
The Toyota Prius brake issues have been reported by at least 180 drivers from the United States and Japan. Toyota indicates that they have already found the source of the problem in the car’s anti-lock brake system and fixed Prius models sold since late January. However, the Japanese automaker did not inform customers and has not indicated whether a Toyota Prius recall will be issued for the 2010 models sold before the fix was initiated.
Toyota officials say that the Prius brake problem was caused by the vehicle switching between traditional braking systems and an electronic system that helps recharge the car’s battery. Drivers would feel a moment where the brakes did not appear to be working as the system switched over. The problem was fixed by a software adjustment, the company claims.
Consumer frustration with Toyota has reached unprecedented heights in recent weeks, as the company has recalled more than 5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles since September due to problems where the some vehicles were accelerating out of control. The company was reportedly aware of the issues for some time and did not take steps to notify the public until after a high-profile crash in August 2009 gained media attention.
The Toyota sudden acceleration issues have been blamed on thick floor mats used in some vehicles and sticking gas pedals caused by friction. However, outsiders have been pushing for an investigation of the vehicles electronic acceleration system.
In September 2009, a Lexus and Toyota recall was issued for 3.8 million vehicles that contained certain all-weather floor mats, which Toyota indicated could get stuck under the gas pedals, causing unintended acceleration. In January, Toyota issued another recall for 2.3 million Toyota vehicles, including 600,000 that were not subject to the prior floor mat recall due to an actual mechanical problem that was causing some gas pedals to stick. Shortly after, the company stopped production and sales on eight of its most popular vehicles, including the Corolla, Camry, and Tundra. The company has also announced it is recalling nearly 2 million vehicles in Europe and almost 80,000 in China.
As Toyota class-action lawsuits and product liability lawsuits mount against the company, U.S. officials say they have initiated a new probe into the acceleration problems, focusing in part on the electronics linking the accelerator pedal to the engine. Toyota has ruled out the electronics as a cause of the acceleration problems.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood went as far as recommending recently that Toyota owners park their cars unless they were taking them in to get the accelerator fixed, but later retracted the statement.
The gas pedal problem got a very public face this week after Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak came out and admitted that he had experienced a sudden acceleration problem in his 2010 Prius several months ago. Wozniak said his Prius accelerated out of his control to speeds of up to 97 m.p.h. before he was able to regain control of the vehicle. Wozniak said he contacted both federal investigators and Toyota, but no one paid attention to his concerns. Toyota engineers have said they will examine his car and look for the source of the problem.