2010 Prius Recall May be Imminent

Numerous news agencies, citing several sources, are reporting that Toyota Motor Corporation may begin recalling Prius Hybrids in Japan on February 9 in response to claims of faulty brake pedals. The reports claim that the initial recall will be followed by similar actions in other markets including Europe and the United States.

Toyota has acknowledged that it is in discussions with a number of safety authorities from various markets concerning complaints from owners of the 2010 Prius that have experienced braking problems while driving on bumpy roads.

Toyota claims the problem does not present a safety risk and that it can be remedied by upgrading the braking system software.

According to reports, various sources have said that Toyota will announce the recall of 2010 Priuses in Japan through a filing with that country’s Transportation Ministry as early as Tuesday. The Prius has Japan’s best-selling vehicle last year and global sales of the 2010 model are estimated to be more than 300,000 vehicles in over 60 countries.

Last Friday, Toyota president Akio Toyoda appeared before the media at the automaker’s global headquarters in Nagoya, Japan and offered his personal apology for a series of recent recalls. Also, this past weekend the company launched a new advertising campaign aimed at reassuring its customers of the automaker’s commitment to safety and reliability.

Toyoda also announced the formation of an in-house committee to review the company’s quality control methods and standards.

J.P. Morgan auto analyst, Kohei Takahashi was encouraged by the news and said, “We think [Toyota’s] start of efforts to resolve quality problems is a step forward in terms of regaining investor confidence.”

In addition to the Prius, Toyota’s Sai and HS250h could be included in any upcoming recall action. The HS250h is manufactured under the Lexus nameplate. Both models are equipped with the same braking system used in the 2010 Prius.

Toyota estimates that it sold 15,500 HS250h models globally between its release last July and the end of the year. The automaker claims that it sold 3,800 Sai’s during December, which has the first month the vehicle was on the market. The Sai has only been marketed domestically.

Apparently hoping to head off a high profile recall of its own, Ford Motor Company last week announced that it is notifying some 17,600 owners of its 2010 Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid models of a customer satisfaction program to upgrade braking system software. Some owners have reported experiencing problems similar to those experienced by Prius owners.

In addition to the monumental cost of repairing recalled vehicles, Toyota also faces the specter of colossal legal fees stemming from product liability lawsuits.

No less than 30 class-action lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs in the United States and a number of law firms have launched Web sites in recent weeks aimed at Toyota owners who may have been involved in accidents related to accelerator and brake problems. One such site poses the question, Have You or Loved One Been Injured or Killed in an Accident Due to a Defective Gas Pedal or Floor Mat? and claims, You may be entitled to substantial compensation!”

Safety Research & Strategies, Incorporated founder Sean Kane predicts, We are going to see a series of recalls appear over a period of time here, certainly over the next year, and they are going to address varying issues and varying vehicles.”

Toyota claims that it has discovered no evidence of safety risks other than those addressed in recall actions currently underway.

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