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Toyota stands by Camry Hybrid

On the launch pad: The Australian-made Camry Hybrid will be in showrooms from February 15.

Camry Hybrid brakes "completely different" to Prius, says Toyota Australia

9 Feb 2010

TOYOTA Australia says it has absolute confidence in the Altona-made Camry Hybrid despite a local investigation into braking issues with the Prius hybrid and overseas recalls of other Toyota vehicles.

The company launched Australia’s first locally made hybrid in Melbourne yesterday as reports from Japan suggested the Prius would soon face a massive recall over braking issues with the hybrid model - the latest in a series of public quality failures to beset the brand.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing director, David Buttner, confirmed the company was looking into two customer complaints regarding the regenerative braking system of the Prius, but insisted there was nothing wrong with the Camry Hybrid, which also generates energy under braking.

“The braking system in the current-generation Prius and the Camry Hybrid is completely different,” Mr Buttner said.

He said Toyota Australia has not been informed of any recall regarding the Prius.

“There is no impending recall that I know of,” he said.

“Both globally and in Australia there are currently investigations under way. I certainly like to think that in the next few days there is a formal announcement globally.” He conceded the question mark over the Prius and mass overseas recalls including a deadly floor matt fault and sticking throttle could hurt the reputation of Toyota in Australia, even though no local cars have been affected.

“I couldn’t stand before you and pretend for the moment that the global situation, which has achieved very widespread coverage in Australia, will not have some kind of effect on the brand,” Mr Buttner said.

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“The reputation is something that you are well aware we take very seriously and the reputation and brand image in any market place in the world is driven one customer at a time and the experience they have with the product and the experience they have interacting with the dealer.” GoAuto asked Mr Buttner whether Toyota Australia considered delaying the launch of the Camry Hybrid given the current negative media coverage of the brand.

“We didn’t at any juncture have any discussion about delaying this launch,” he said.

“We start to wholesale this car on the 15th. We need to get this car to market.

“We have absolute confidence in the vehicle and we are quite happy to stand in front of it and launch the car.” Mr Buttner said Toyota Australia was lucky not to have not been included in any of the recent recalls.

“The recall that has been announced for the accelerator pedal doesn’t affect any vehicle brought into Australia or designed here,” he said.

“The design of the accelerator pedal of the vehicles that have been recalled in Europe, the US and China is completely different and is a totally different supplier, so we have been very fortunate not to have those issues. The floor mat issue is not an issue in Australia.” Mr Buttner said that only time would tell whether the fallout from the overseas recall would affect Australian sales, but said traffic in dealerships appears to be holding up.

“We monitor the traffic each weekend and the level of activity. Naturally I have been interested in those results from the weekend and Sydney’s was up around a mark that we were satisfied with - it was up on last weekend,” he said.

Mr Buttner said two Prius customers had complained about the brake performance of their Prius models in the last fortnight and that the claims are being investigated thoroughly.

“Like with any report from the customer we get the car, we inspect the vehicle, we go through it with a fine-tooth comb, we talk to the customer,” he said.

Asked what the customers complained of, Mr Buttner said: “It is just with the inconsistency in feel of the brake, once the ABS comes on and they hit a pothole or a ripple,” he said.

“There have been no accidents. The brakes work in every instance.” If the braking issue was to lead to a recall, Mr Buttner does not believe it would take long to fix.

“From what I believe it would be a software change,” he said.

Toyota Australia has sold 13,000 hybrids locally since the first generation Prius went on sale in 2001, with up to 2000 examples of the current third-generation model sold since July 2009.

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