Toyota to Announce a Large Prius Recall

By Chris Haak

02.09.2010

Toyota logo-smallBattered and bruised Toyota is preparing to take another blow to it’s chin.  The company’s pride and joy, the Prius hybrid – its halo car – is set to be recalled worldwide to fix the issue that we mentioned in our article last week on the way Washington was turning up the heat on Toyota.

Toyota is set to announce the initial recall of the Prius in Japan for the braking issue this morning.  This recall will be filed with the country’s Transportation Ministry in the early afternoon, and a press conference will follow later in the day with President Akio Toyoda and Toyota’s quality chief, Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki.

The recall will entail a software update to address complaints that the brakes on the 2010 Prius  may briefly slip or give way, particularly on bumpy or slippery conditions. Cars built over the past several weeks already contain the updated software, but Toyota only recently conceded that it made the running change, and did not previously notify owners of any Prius built before that point.  The company sold over 200,000 2010 Priuses in Japan (where it is the bestselling car), 103,000 in the US, and 29,000 in Europe.

001_2010_Prius-prvBecause the recall has not yet officially been announced, many of its details were not yet available. We do know at this point that it will target the 2010 Prius, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the Lexus HS250h and the Toyota Sai.  (The Sai is a Toyota-badged version of the HS250h sold only in the Japanese domestic market).  The software update’s purpose will be to shorten the lag time between switching from the hybrid’s regenerative braking and antilock braking systems.

Eventually, the Prius recall could reach all 60 countries in which the car is sold.  This latest recall affects only the new third-generation 2010 Prius, although the previous generation has already been recalled for unintended acceleration issues.

While Toyota is certainly taking its share of lumps, Southeast Toyota, the largest Toyota distributor in the world with 173 dealers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina & South Carolina, has pulled all of its advertising from local ABC stations because of those stations’ “excessive stories on the Toyota issues” by ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross.”

I have to back up Southeast Toyota on this one.  Although I have not watched any of the ABC News reports on the Toyota problems (Lord knows I’m plenty saturated already from my world of press releases and reading the autoblogosphere), I have received a number of unsolicited emails from ABC News with inflammatory language that seemed to editorialize the news at best and sensationalize it at worst.  For example, a recent trudge through my deleted items includes:

  • Toyota Driver: ABC News Videos Helped Save My Life:  Kevin Haggerty Says He Brought His Runaway Toyota Under Control By Using What He’d Learned On-Line and On-Air
  • New Reports of Runaway Toyotas; Problem Persists Despite Recall:  Four Dead in Dallas Crash Where Problem Floor Mats Found in Trunk
  • As Toyota Recall Spreads, New Gas Pedal Parts Being Shipped; Safety Expert Says New Fix Still Won’t End Runaway Cars
  • Customer Confusion: Drivers of Recalled Toyotas Frustrated and Concerned:  Millions of Toyota Owners Don’t Know What to Do With Their Cars
  • Toyota CEO Apologizes to His Customers: ‘I Am Deeply Sorry’:  Akio Toyoda Spent the Week in Switzerland While Company Struggled with Massive Recall

On January 21, ABC News sent two emails just three minutes apart, and on January 28, they sent two emails, but they were several hours apart.  The last one above (about Akio Toyoda) seemed particularly weasely.

In his first public comment about the massive safety crisis surrounding his company, the President and CEO of Toyota apologized to his customers for causing them so much worry.

“I am deeply sorry,” said Akio Toyoda in a brief interview with the Japanese network NHK as he left his hotel in Davos, Switzerland. After the interview he was seen leaving in a black Audi.

Toyoda had been attending the economic conference with other corporate and government leaders this week, while his deputies struggled to quell a consumer rebellion triggered by the recall of nine million cars worldwide.

In the interview, Toyoda said he could not answer questions because the company “was still investigating.” He said he hoped to provide an explanation to Toyota customers soon.

“Truly we think of our customers as a priority and we guarantee their safety,” he said, according to a translation.

Referring to the near collapse of the company’s once strong reputation for safety and quality, Toyoda said, “I would like for the people to trust us.”

Was it important to note that he drove away in a black Audi?  It’s not like he gets to pick the cars run by the car service in Switzerland.  And of course Toyota’s reputation has taken a series of major blows, but a “near collapse of its reputation for safety and quality” seems overly dramatic and probably too early to tell how severe the damage will be.

It’s important for Toyota to be forthcoming with the necessary information about affected vehicles and how to get the repairs handled quickly, and it’s important for media outlets to spread the word as efficiently as possible.  It’s also OK to editorialize on the subject – we’ve done our share of that in our coverage of the recalls.  But ABC should not be surprised to see that its perhaps less-than-balanced coverage of the problems has resulted in a reaction from a Toyota-friendly party, particularly when ABC pushes its “investigative” coverage of the issue far beyond what most of its competitors have done.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t think the coverage has been any more hysterical than the coverage of anything else that is life-threatening, even if the chances are remote.

    Remember Y2K? And recently, swine flu?

  2. In the end the brake system mechanicals will remain unmodified and a lag time, infinitesimal as it might be, will still exist.

    And drivers will still need to become accustomed to the technology.

  3. The American government seems to be one of the main parties that is making Toyota look careless. Their public statements are punishing Toyota.

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