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Decision on Prius Recall Coming Soon, Toyota Chief Says

Feb 5, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Toyota’s chief executive appeared at a news conference today to apologize for the automaker's recent safety problems and recalls.  But  Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said no decision has been made about recalling some Prius hybrid vehicles which may have faulty brakes.

As we reported earlier this week, brakes on some Prius hybrid vehicles had temporarily stopping working on bumpy or slippery roads. Toyota has been investigating braking problems on the third generation Prius launched in May, and said yesterday that brakes on some Prius vehicles had a design flaw. The automaker acknowledged that it had changed the software for cars produced since January, and it is looking into what to do with the vehicles already on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has received 124 reports from consumers about the Prius brakes, including four reports of crashes. The NHTSA said yesterday that it had opened a formal investigation into the Prius brake issue. The preliminary evaluation involves about 37,000 vehicles in the U.S., the agency said.

Yesterday, several media outlets in Japan reported that Toyota would be recalling 270,000 Prius vehicles over the brake issue, but that has not happened yet. At this morning’s news conference, Toyoda said his company is still investigating the Prius brake issue and said a decision on a recall would be announced as soon as possible.

The Prius problem follows recent well-published issues Toyota has had with sudden, unexpected acceleration with some of its vehicles.  In the past several months, Toyota has recalled roughly 8 million vehicles around the world because of sudden acceleration problems. At this morning's news conference, Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker’s founder, tried to reassure consumers that Toyota’s cars are safe. Toyoda apologized and said he would be heading up a committee to improve quality control at Toyota.

According to a CNN report, the chief executive was not afforded the usual deference the Japanese media usually grants to corporate executives in that country. Instead, some reporters asked Toyoda pointed questions about a lack of leadership at the company, and wanted to know why he was dodging questions. Toyoda has recently been criticized for his lack of public appearances during the recall crisis, CNN said.


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