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Toyota Cops to Prius Brake Flaw, U.S. Expands Unintended Acceration Probe

Feb 4, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

NEWS UPDATE: New York Post, Friday, February 5th, 2010 - The Toyota Crisis Lawsuits are coming fast and furious (Click to view page)

Toyota has admitted that brakes on its Prius hybrid have a design flaw, just  U.S. safety regulators said they would be looking at the electronic throttle system on some Toyota vehicles as part of their investigation into reports of   unintended acceleration.  Unintended acceleration issues have prompted two massive recalls of Toyotas since last fall.

According to the Associated Press, Toyota acknowledged yesterday that it found design problems with the antilock brake system and corrected them for Prius models sold since late January. The automaker is still trying to figure out what do about cars already on the road, and would not rule out a recall.

According to a New York Times report, Toyota’s manager in charge of quality, Hiroyuki Yokoyama, said yesterday that new Priuses experienced “a slight unresponsiveness” of the brakes which he said could be resolved by pressing harder on the brake pedal. Yokoyama blamed the problem on the Prius’ two braking systems, saying a glitch sometimes prevented the car from transitioning smoothly between the two. This is a different stance than Toyota took only yesterday, when it said it was still studying the Prius complaints and was unsure of the cause, the Times noted.

News of the Prius brake defect came in the midst of a firestorm created by Toyota’s latest recall of cars for sudden acceleration problems.

Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the U.S. investigation into the acceleration issue would expand to look at the possibility of electromagnetic interference with electronic throttle systems. According to The Wall Street Journal, electronic throttles replace mechanical links between the gas pedal and the throttle with electronic relays. As part of the probe, the NHTSA will meet with manufacturers and suppliers to gain more understanding of their electronic throttle systems and ways in which these companies address any possible interference effect, the Journal said.

The NHTSA has also come under fire for its response to the Toyota unintended acceleration issue. According to The Wall Street Journal, in a letter released yesterday, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, (D.-Mich.), pointed out that reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles predate the recalls by at least two years. Dingell sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating Toyota.

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