Possible Toyota Prius Recall

By Kim Smiley

A new potential safety issue has developed and Toyota may recall the newest model of the gas electric hybrid Prius that has been sold since last May.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 124 reports from consumers claiming that the brakes don’t engage immediately at times.  Toyota has stated that the company has received 180 reports of braking problems in Japan and the United States. The reports include 4 incidents that resulted in accidents with 2 people receiving minor injuries.

Even a slight delay in the response of car braking systems can be very dangerous because cars can travel nearly 100 feet in one second at highway speeds.

No official details are known yet on what is causing the delay in brake engagement.  In one article, a power train expert speculated that it was a software glitch caused when the hybrid switched between using the electric motor and the internal combustion engine.  In the Prius design, the same motor that is powering the car, powers the brakes.  When the hybrid is switching between motors, there might be a momentarily loss of power to the brakes during the transition.

A preliminary root cause analysis can be started using the available information.  The Cause Map can be expanded and revised as necessary as new information becomes available.  Click on the “Download PDF” button above to view the initial Cause Map.

Toyota has not stated whether a formal recall will be made.  A potential recall would affect 300,000 vehicles worldwide.

This new issue comes on the heels of a major announcement on January 21 where 2.3 million cars were recalled because of sticky gas pedals that can cause sudden acceleration. Additionally, there was a recall issued in September 2009 because there was a potential for floor mats to move out of place and cause the accelerator to stick. (A previous blog addressed this issue.)

Toyota shares dropped 21 percent following the January announcement and any farther safety issues will likely negatively impact consumer confident and stock prices.