Toyota looks at possible brake problems in Lexus HS
The Japanese automaker aims to announce a remedy for the Prius early this week, both in the United States and overseas, an official close to the matter said.
It is still unclear whether the measure will entail a recall or voluntary safety campaign. But Japanese press reports say Toyota will recall the Prius in some 60 countries.
A large Toyota and Lexus dealer in Japan said that dealers were advised that the Prius would be recalled, but they are not allowed to notify customers until the recall has been announced by the Ministry of Transportation. Some dealers are already receiving software updates with which to tweak the car's antilock braking system, he said.
Engineers were still testing the Prius over the weekend at the company's Higashifuji proving grounds to get a better handle on the braking issue, another official said.
The company is also looking into whether other hybrids, including the Lexus HS and the Toyota Sai, must also be remedied, Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said.
“They have very similar braking systems and we are currently checking whether they have the same problem,” Takeuchi said Monday in Japan. “Nothing has been decided.”
The Lexus HS, which went on sale last year in the United States and Japan, is the first dedicated hybrid in the Lexus lineup. The Sai is a reskinned version of the HS sold as a Toyota in Japan.
Toyota sold 6,699 units of the Lexus HS in the United States last year, compared with 139,682 for the Prius.
A computerized search of online complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called up 10 complaints about slipping brakes in the Lexus HS. That compared with more than 800 complaints targeting the braking system in the 2010 Prius, most of them appearing in the past week.
An impending recall comes as Toyota battles fresh complaints that the third-generation Prius suffers from momentary lapses of braking capability, especially on slippery or bumpy surfaces.
The automaker said last week it conducted an on-the-fly software fix to address the issue. But the world's biggest carmaker didn't notify customers at the time of the change. And it was still uncertain how Toyota would handle the thousands of Prius vehicles sold before the fix.
The third-generation Prius went on sale in the United States, Japan and Europe last year. Transportation agencies in the United States and Japan have been compiling complaints that the car's brakes give way under certain conditions.
A Prius recall would be another blow to Toyota, which is already grappling with a rash of recalls targeting 8.1 million vehicles worldwide. Those recalls are aimed at fixing incidents of sudden acceleration in some of its vehicles.
You can reach Hans Greimel at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Hans on