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Toyota Mulling Prius, Lexus HS Recall

Posted: Feb 05, 2010 10:27 a.m.

What’s going on at Toyota headquarters?  Conflicting reports this morning say that the auto giant may have decided to recall its 2010 Prius hybrid in order to correct a braking defect.

ABC News says the recall decision has been made.   Citing a report in the Japanese news daily Nihon Keizai, ABC claims, “Toyota will soon notify Japan's transport ministry and the U.S. Department of Transportation of the recall.”

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports, “Toyota Motor Corp. is considering either recall or voluntary repair for its Prius hybrid vehicle, which has a problem with its anti-lock braking system.”

Kicking Tires claims, “There is no recall planned at this time and that they will announce a decision on what to do with the Prius brake issue in the coming days.”

Whenever a decision is made, it may affect more than the Prius.  The New York Times reports, “Company executives also are looking at two other hybrids with the same brake system, the Lexus HS250h and the Sai, a small hybrid sold only in Japan.”

Our calls asking Toyota for clarification haven’t yet been returned.  We’ll let you know, when we know, if a recall is imminent.

The AP explains, “Some owners of the 2010 Prius have reported their brakes do not always engage immediately when they press the brake pedal, or that the brakes have an inconsistent feel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would assess the scope of the problem and the safety risk to about 37,000 cars that could be affected.”

The company has acknowledged the brake problem, and says it is a software issue that has been fixed in new Prius hybrids rolling off the assembly line.  The company instituted the change in manufacturing in late January.  Jalopnik notes, “Normally, the software update would probably be made at the dealer when the car comes in for routine service without a recall. This time? It's possible they may have to recall the cars.”

The Prius, like most hybrids, has two separate braking systems.  A regenerative braking system slows the car by reversing its electric motor, which reduces speed while also recharging the car’s batteries.  The car also has conventional anti-lock disc brakes at the wheels.  Toyota claims that the software that controls these systems sometimes allows a lapse of as long as one second while switching between the two braking systems on slippery or uneven surfaces.  It’s a problem that didn’t plague earlier editions of the Prius, which had the same two systems.

For more information on Toyota's recent problems, including the latest news, please see our Toyota Recall page. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals