Following a week of speculation, Toyota confirmed this morning that they would initiate a voluntary recall of the 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Lexus HS 250h in order to stem concerns about braking problems with those vehicles.
The company said that the recall would include a software update for the braking system on roughly 130,000 Prius models and 15,000 HS 250h models. The Prius is the most popular hybrid model sold in America, while the HS 250h is a variant of the Prius sold under Toyota's premium Lexus line. Only Prius and HS 250h models made after May 2009 are included in the recall; first- and second-generation Prius models are not included in the recall.
In recent weeks there have been numerous complaints about the braking system in the Prius. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received over 100 complaints about the brakes in the car since it went on sale last spring. Japan's transport ministry said it had received 14 complaints of its own.
Problems occur, according to reports, when owners try to apply their brakes when traveling over slick surfaces or over large bumps or potholes. In a statement, Toyota officially described the problem: "some 2010 model year Prius and 2010 HS 250h owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction."
“We’re committed to doing everything we can – as fast as we can – to restore consumer trust in Toyota, and these recalls are part of this effort,” said Jim Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor Sales. “We regret the inconvenience this recall will cause to Prius and HS 250h owners, and will do our best with the support of our dealers to make sure that it is conducted in the most trouble-free manner possible.”
The Prius and HS 250h recalls come on the heels of months of serious issues for the manufacturer, all specifically involving consumer safety and generally involving the inability of Toyota owners to get their cars stopped.
The recalls began in late 2009 when various Lexus and Toyota owners were told to remove their floor mats as pedals were getting stuck, leading one family of four in San Diego to die after their Lexus ran out of control. In January the company issued a stoppage of 8 Toyota models and issued a recall for a separate but related issue: a faulty accelerator pedal system that could fail to lift after the driver removed his or her foot.
In an unrelated issue to the recall Toyota announced this morning, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak appeared in various articles over the last few weeks as he's complained openly about his 2010 Toyota Prius. The entrepreneur said that his car has a problem with unintended acceleration when using the cruise control, not an issue with braking performance. He has posited that the issue is likely software related, but that it might be an isolated incident with his car.
Owners of the involved 2010 Prius vehicles will be notified by mail. Toyota recommends following their recall website at www.toyota.com/recall or calling the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331.