Toyota Recalls Prius, Lexus HS 250h Models
TORRANCE, Calif. — In yet another development to the automaker's recent batch of challenges, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, announced a voluntary safety recall early Tuesday morning on its 2010 model-year Prius and Lexus HS 250h models to update the vehicles' anti-lock brake system software.
Multiple reports have also indicated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation regarding the power steering of 2009 and 2010 model-year Toyota Corollas.
Regarding the recall announced Tuesday, officials said roughly 133,000 Prius vehicles were recalled in the U.S., while 14,550 HS 250h vehicles were recalled.
(Globally, the manufacturer recalled more than 400,000 Prius models and other hybrids throughout Japan, the U.S. and Europe on Tuesday, according to reports.)
In a separate move, Toyota announced a voluntary safety recall on early-production 2010 model-year four-cylinder Camry models. Roughly 7,300 units have been recalled to examine a power steering hose that could be touching a front brake tube, officials explained.
"This contact could lead to a hole in the brake tube and cause a brake fluid leak, increased brake pedal stroke and greater vehicle stopping distance," executives noted.
Toyota will notify people who own affected 2010 Camry models via mail by the middle of the month.
Explaining the issues with the Prius and HS 250h in more detail, officials noted that the ABS, when operating normally, engages and disengages "many times per second … as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage."
However, the automaker noted that "some 2010 model year Prius and 2010 HS 250h owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction."
So, in response, Toyota made a running production change for the 2010 Prius. Introduced last month, it was designed to quicken the response time of the ABS in addition to improving the system's overall sensitivity to tire slippage.
Toyota plans to implement the production change for the HS 250h later in February.
"We're committed to doing everything we can — as fast as we can — to restore consumer trust in Toyota, and these recalls are part of this effort," explained Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer for Toyota Motor Sales. "We regret the inconvenience this recall will cause to Prius and HS 250h owners, and will do our best with the support of our dealers to make sure that it is conducted in the most trouble-free manner possible."
Lentz added: "As part of the quality improvement program announced by Toyota president Akio Toyoda last week, our company is undertaking a top to bottom review to ensure that our vehicles meet our own high standards of safety and reliability, now and for the future.
"We are taking steps to implement more stringent quality control across the company, to investigate customer complaints more aggressively and to respond more quickly to any safety issues we identify," he continued.
Basically, officials said this recall lets dealers update the software on the 2010 Prius models sold before the automaker implemented the running production change.
The automaker explained that the only Prius models impacted by this recall are those made after May 2009.
"First- and second-generation Prius vehicles use a different ABS system and are not involved in this campaign," officials pointed out. "The ABS system on the Lexus HS 250h is similar in design to the Prius. The software adjustment planned for HS 250h production and dealer modification is being finalized and will be announced very soon."
Next week, Toyota will start mailing owners of affected Prius models to let them know when to bring the vehicle in to the dealership for a repair. Then in the next few weeks, it will notify owners of the HS 250h.
The automaker emphasized that letters will only be sent to owners whose vehicles are affected.
Reaction to Latest Recall
While only the 2010 models of the Prius were included in Tuesday's recall, used Prius models could see a detrimental impact to their values, as well, according to Kelley Blue Book.
"While (Tuesday's) newest recall covers the 2010 Prius, it casts a shadow over older Prius models as well. Older Priuses not affected by the recall have seen a drop in their used-car value by 1.5 percent," explained Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation at KBB.
"We at Kelley Blue Book expect this weakened demand to persist as additional investigations take place into the 2009 and 2010 Toyota Corolla steering issues, as well as some Lexus products," he continued. "As NHTSA currently investigates the Corolla, the value of affected Corollas has fallen 3 percent as of right now."
Flores added: "Should the glut of Toyota vehicles continue to build in coming weeks, there could very well be further softening of Toyota's values."
In the midst of Toyota's challenges, one industry analyst, in particular, warned competitors against becoming "smug."
"While concern about Toyota mounts and makes for compelling headlines, competitors should not feel smug," suggested Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com chief executive officer Jeremy Anwyl.
"As cars continue to get more complicated, and the Internet makes it increasingly easier for car owners to report and discuss their issues, the number of complaints will continue to rise and will likely touch every automaker," he added.