On the heels of their Sudden Acceleration Recalls, Toyota is now under pressure for braking issues on the Prius, Toyota’s popular hybrid. According to Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary, Transportation officials will begin an inquiry after reports were received that the Japanese government has initiated an investigation in brake malfunction complaints, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
A Toyota spokesman in Japan indicated that the braking complaints received were involving situations where the drivers were on a bumpy road or frozen surface. According to one complainant on record at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “My 2010 Toyota Prius has a serious braking problem, the car lunges forward after (I) apply my brakes over a bumpy surface. This is very unexpected and luckily no one was in front of me otherwise I would have hit them. This already happened several times, took my car to the dealer and no solution, I don’t know what to do with a brand new (car) like this.” There are many complaints with similar descriptions around braking/acceleration problems when encountering even minor bumps and potholes with the 2010 Prius.
Brakes in the Prius and other hybrids operate differently from those in standard cars. Hybrids use an engagement system between their braking system and electric motors to generate electricity for recharging the batteries along with standard brakes. The braking problems could lie within this engagement system.
This latest issue with the Prius is on top of Toyota’s recall of 3.8 million cars in November 2009 to fix accelerator pedals and software to address what has been reported as sudden acceleration problems. Toyota dealers were making modifications to the gas pedals by removing inches from the bottom so the gas pedals would not get trapped under the floor mats. Toyota then followed up that recall with another recall for sudden acceleration on January 21, 2010. On that day Toyota Motor Sales announced a recall of 2.3 million vehicles which included:
* 2005-2010 Avalon
* 2007-2010 Camry
* 2009-2010 Corolla
* 2010 Highlander
* 2009-2010 Matrix
* 2009-2010 RAV4
* 2008-2010 Sequoia
* 2007-2010 Tundra
According to a USA article titled “100 Toyota drivers filed complaints before recall”, “she would become one of more than 100 drivers, according to a USA TODAY search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration complaints database, who over the past few years have had their Toyota vehicles take off when they weren’t expected to.”
Apparently Toyota was not as aggressive at dealing with the issue as they have let on. According to LaHood, “The recalls involving pedal entrapment and possible sticky gas pedals on Toyota vehicles are some of the largest in automobile history. Every step of the way, NHTSA… officials pushed Toyota to take corrective action so that consumers would be safe.”…”Today, Toyota is apparently taking the right steps to address these safety issues. Unfortunately it took much effort to get to this point.”
During a Congressional hearing on Weds, February 3rd, the Transportation Secretary said that owners of recalled Toyotas should stop driving them until they are repaired. He was quoted as saying, “… stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it.”
Toyota has stated that they have a solution to deploy for the accelerator issue, but there hasn’t been any official Toyota release regarding the 2010 Prius braking problem. Toyota’s U.S. sales have plunged 16% in January as an apparent reaction to the sudden acceleration recall, even as sales of other automakers rose. What the affect of this Prius issue will be, no one knows. It is apparent that Toyota’s image has suffered severe damage and we’ll have to wait and see how long it will take for it to recover.
To read an in-depth article on this situation from a 3rd party go to Consumer Reports article on the Toyota recall.