Brake problems have forced Toyota to announce the recall of nearly half a million hybrid vehicles worldwide, including its latest 3rd generation Prius model built before 27 January 2010. This includes more than 200,000 Prius cars sold in Japan and 8,500 cars in the UK.
“We have decided to recall as we regard safety for our customers as our foremost priority,” the firm said.
The company has already recalled eight million vehicles because of accelerator and floor mat problems.
Company president Akio Toyoda made the latest recall announcement at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon (Japanese time).
Mr Toyoda had earlier written in the Washington Post that he was “deeply disappointed” for not maintaining the high standards US customers expected.
“As the president of Toyota, I take personal responsibility,” he wrote. “That is why I am personally leading the effort to restore trust in our word and in our products.”
The Prius was Japan’s top-selling car in 2009 and the world’s most popular hybrid model.
The brake problem was thought to affect Prius models that were sold in the US and Japan starting last May. There have been complaints in Japan and the US that the brakes momentarily fail when driven on rough roads.
Toyota blames a software glitch and says it has already fixed vehicles sold this year.
In a statement, Toyota GB was keen to reassure Prius owners in the UK and said that the cars were safe to drive.
“At no time are drivers without brakes,” the firm said.
Toyota GB said that it would be writing to every owner or keeper affected in the next few days and the procedure, to upgrade the anti-lock braking system, would be carried out free of charge.
In the UK, no other Toyota or Lexus models are affected by the latest recall.
There have been no reports of any such accidents in the UK.
Before it announced the Prius recall in Japan, Toyota estimated that its losses would reach $2bn (£1.23bn) in costs and lost sales from its worldwide recall of vehicles that might have faulty accelerator pedals. The Prius recall is expected to send this figure even higher.
TOYOTA RECALLS: STORY SO FAR
September 2007, US: 55,000 Camry and Lexus cars in floormat recall
October 2009, US: 3.8m Toyota and Lexus vehicles recalled due to floormat problem
November 2009, US: floormat recall increased to 4.2m vehicles
January 2010, US: 2.3m Toyota vehicles recalled due to accelerator pedal problems (of those, 2.1m already involved in floormat recall)
January 2010, US: 1.1m Toyotas in floormat recall
February 2010, Europe: 1.8m Toyota’s in pedal recall
February 2010, Japan, US: 200 reports of brake faults in new Prius. Cars recalled
February 2010, worldwide: 436,000 hybrid vehicles in brake recall. Also, 7,300 Camry vehicles recalled in the US over potential brake tube problems