posted on: Wednesday February 10, 2010
Jenny Arvanaghi ’10 / World Editor
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Toyota said it would recall 437,000 of its 2010 flagship Prius hybrids and other gas-electric models worldwide. This sudden recall is due to the defective brakes in many of its vehicles. Around 223,000 of the cars recalled are in Japan, 155,000 are in the United States, and about 53,000 are in Europe, according to The New York Times.Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, claimed that a software glitch caused the failing brakes. “I apologize for the concern and inconvenience we have caused our customers,” he said. “We will redouble our commitment to quality as a lifetime of our company. Together, we will do everything to regain the confidence of our customers.”Toyota recalled about eight million cars worldwide because of gas pedals that could stick or become caught on floor mats. Toyota has been known for its quality products and, although this may seem like a drawback, Toyoda claims that the company never lied to its customers.”When we discover a defect, make defects, or receive advice from customers, we work hard to fix them and improve,” he said. “We do not allow cover-ups.”Toyoda said it received two or three reports per month in Japan of brake problems in the latest model Prius, but as the weather got colder and roads were icier, the complaints grew and led the company to issue a recall. The 2010 Prius comes with an overhauled regenerative brake system, where energy from the wheels is used to help recharge the car’s battery. The car relies heavily on electronic systems that combine the regenerative braking system with conventional brake pads. Shinichi Sasaki, Toyota’s quality chief, said the automaker had determined a glitch occurs when the antilock brake system kicks in, which triggers a switch from the regenerative to conventional brakes.Some experts believe the price tag from legal settlements could end up topping the company’s estimate of $2 billion in recall costs. There are already more than 30 U.S. lawsuits filed against Toyota involving the gas pedals alone. Credit rating agency Moody’s cited the litigation risks when it warned Tuesday that it might downgrade Toyota’s credit rating. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pledged to keep up the pressure on the Japanese automaker to follow U.S. safety regulations.”Last Thursday, NHTSA opened a formal investigation of 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles in response to consumer complaints about braking difficulties, and today, Toyota has acknowledged a safety defect,” LaHood said in a statement, referring to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates auto safety in the United States.”When I spoke with Toyota President Akio Toyoda last week, he assured me that his company takes U.S. safety concerns very seriously.” LaHood said. “The U.S. Department of Transportation will remain in constant communication with Toyota to hold them to that promise.”The Japanese automaker has sold 1.2 million Priuses worldwide since 1997. It was Toyota’s third best selling car last year, behind the Camry and the Corolla, due to its environmentally friendly edge and design.Toyota says it will start repairing the accelerator pedals on 180,000 vehicles across the U.K. on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The company believes it can fix 6,000 cars a day, and would therefore take a month to complete.