Thursday , February 04, 2010
Toyota faced fresh doubts about braking problems in its prized Prius, with complaints swelling to about 180 in the U.S. and Japan, as the automaker sought to salvage its reputation amid massive global recalls over gas-pedal problems in eight other models.
In Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood startled the public with a comment, which he later retracted, that Americans should park their recalled Toyotas unless driving to dealers for accelerator repairs.
The problems with the Prius hybrid are another blow to Toyota in the U.S. — its biggest market — and an embarrassment in the automaker's loyal home turf of Japan, where the transport minister said a recall should be considered.
The popular gas-electric hybrid was not part of the most recent recall over sticking gas pedals in eight top-selling models, numbering about 4.5 million vehicles around the world.
A major Toyota dealership in Tokyo said the automaker had informed dealers that Prius brakes can sometimes fail to work for less than a second but it had not told owners.
Toyota has already done fixes for Prius cars sold since late January but has yet to give instructions to people who bought them earlier, said Hiroyuki Naito, a manager at the dealership. The latest model Prius hit showrooms last May.
"It is disappointing because the Prius was receiving such rave reviews," he said.
Details were not immediately available on what Toyota had in the works for Prius cars sold in the U.S. and Europe.