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Now Prius caught in Toyota nightmare

Feeling off: Toyota's latest Prius is said by some customers to demonstrate inconsistent brake feel on uneven surfaces.

Toyota investigates Prius brake-feel complaints in Japan and US as recalls roll on

Toyota logo4 Feb 2010

TOYOTA is investigating complaints of inconsistent brake feel on its new third-generation Prius hybrid in Japan and the United States, adding to the woes that so far have ensnared more than eight million Toyota cars in recalls worldwide.

Toyota Australia released a statement saying: "In certain current-generation 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 condition occurs.

"Toyota Australia has a well established process to deal with matters such as this and will notify customers if further action is required. It is premature to comment until the investigation has been completed."The timing of the reports is not ideal for the Australian arm of the world’s biggest car-maker, which is set to launch its locally made Camry Hybrid in Australia next week.

The Prius issue is unrelated to the “unintended acceleration” problem that has beset some of Toyota’s biggest sellers in North America, Asia and Europe. In those cases, the problem is said to relate to either dislodged floor mats or sticky accelerator pedals which can reportedly jam open, although US authorities also are investigating a theory that the problem might be caused by an electronics issue.

No vehicles in Australia have been affected by the accelerator pedal or floormat recalls.

8 center imageToyota’s reputation for quality and consistency of engineering has been severely dented by the issues, and the company now has acted quickly to head off any suggestion that it has been tardy to respond to the latest reports of problems concerning its image-boosting Prius hybrid.

According to the company, some customers have told their dealers that the Prius brake feel is inconsistent over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.

Most of the complaints appear to have been made in recent weeks, with 102 such reports listed on the US National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s web site. Japanese dealers have also passed on reports from disgruntled customers to Toyota Motor Corporation.

The hybrid Prius has regenerative braking which uses the car's electric motor-generator to help brake the vehicle, thereby converting the forward motion into electricity.

When the brake pedal is depressed, the electric motor that helps to drive the vehicle under acceleration switches to generator mode, using the drag of its magnets to slow the vehicle as it simultaneously creates electricity for later use, storing it in the car's nickel-metal hydride batteries.

The Toyota hybrid – the best-selling petrol-electric car in the world – also has conventional disc brakes that step in under heavy braking to ensure safety.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s American operation says its 172,000 corporate and dealership employees are “working around the clock” to fix accelerator pedals for US customers.

In Europe, Toyota has confirmed that seven models are now subject to the accelerator pedal recall – iQ, Aygo, Yaris, Auris, Corolla, Avensis and Versa.

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