Toyota is expected to release this week plans to address the latest problem with the Prius. Although the company has been announcing -- for about the last five months -- massive recalls and plans to stop producing and selling cars and trucks, this is the first Prius-specific issue.
The problem involves the braking system in the 2010 Prius, which Toyota says is a glitch in the software that can cause a brake failure. If someone driving 60 mph experienced this, his Prius would travel 90 feet before the brakes kicked in.
The only official statement from Toyota came last week in a two-paragraph press release:
In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.
Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.
That release came days after the Japanese government ordered the company to investigate continued complaints involving the brakes from Prius drivers. The Washington Post reported today that an official recall is coming from the company in Japan.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, has opened an investigation about braking problems in the 2010 Prius, according to a press release from the agency.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons told Hair Balls, via e-mail, "Toyota will be providing additional information in regard to Prius ABS later this week."
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The federal Office of Defects Investigation has gotten 124 complaints from Prius drivers about the brakes, and four of those have involved crashes, according to the release.
Toyota reportedly made a software change in the Prius braking system in January of this year, but never made a public announcement that there could be a problem in the cars already on the road.
The Houston Press published a lengthy story in April of last year about problems with the Prius, and several of the Prius drivers that spoke with the Press reported brake failure. One man, Richard Bacon from Tacoma, Washington, lost brakes after his Prius crossed over a patch of snow. His Prius was a 2008, however, and the problems are currently focused on the 2010 model.
Plenty of Priuses made before 2010, however, have received consumer complaints. Between 2004 and 2009, the NHTSA received 2,310 complaints from Prius drivers, almost as many as all other Toyota models combined.