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Another Shoe Drops

24th December 2009

Toyota’s sterling quality reputation is taking another hit, this time for the Prius. The best-selling hybrid car in the world is now the subject of a safety investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). thedetroitbureau.com is reporting that NHTSA has received 33 complaints of brake failure on the current 3rd generation Prius.

In the case of the Prius brakes, it appears that the transition from regenerative braking to hydraulic braking is not transparent to drivers. Under certain conditions, the driver needs to press harder on the brake pedal to obtain the same stopping performance the regenerative system working in conjunction with the hydraulic brakes initially provides. Drivers are clearly upset by longer than expected stopping distances.

The problem seems to occur when the car goes over a bump or pothole. Somehow, the jarring disrupts the regenerative brakes’ operation.

A Toyota spokesperson initially told TDB that he was unaware of the issue, but Toyota quickly supplied the following statement: “We are aware of the complaints filed with NHTSA. The agency has not opened an investigation. We are investigating the issue based on internet traffic, customer comments to Toyota Customer Relations, and NHTSA complaints. It is too early to speculate the final conclusion(s) of our investigation and subsequent actions.”

Toyota has had several recalls recently. Toyota is in the midst of huge recalls involving floor mats and accelerator pedals (3.8 million vehicles) and rusty Tundra frames (+100,000), among others; and it faces lawsuits alleging the withholding of evidence in safety investigations, as well as new charges of unintended acceleration, and stalling in some of its most popular models.
Toyota’s worst year for recalls, ever
So far this year, Toyota has said it will recall a total of 4.8 million vehicles in the United States, four times more than in any previous year. It recalled 1.1 million vehicles in 2004.

So far, Toyota’s sales have not been hurt by the quality issues. Only time will tell if they are hurt long term. The D3 weren’t hurt by their bad quality at first either.

That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

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Toyota issued a “safety advisory” today regarding the risk that the accelerator pedal could be forced into the full open (“floored”) position if the driver side floor mats are unsecured or incompatible.  This condition could result in very high speeds and result in crashes with serious injury and/or death.  Toyota does not yet have a fix for the problem, and is instructing owners of all affected vehicles to remove the floor mats immediately and not replace them with another mat.  The affected vehicles are:

  • 2007 – 2010 Camry
  • 2005 – 2010 Avalon
  • 2004 – 2009 Prius
  • 2005 – 2010 Tacoma
  • 2007 – 2010 Tundra
Toyota is giving owners of the affected vehicles the following instructions if they find themselves in a vehicle that is accelerating unintentionally:
Should the vehicle continue to accelerate rapidly after releasing the accelerator pedal, this could be an indication of floor mat interference.  If this occurs, Toyota recommends the driver take the following actions:

First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.

If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.

Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.

-If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.

-If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel
.

“This is an urgent matter,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration.”

The recall was sparked by an Aug. 28 accident in San Diego during which four people were killed in a Lexus, said Irv Miller, a spokesman for Toyota.

This is the largest recall for Toyota and is more than 70% higher than their total 2008 sales in the US.  Toyota’s previous recall record was 900,000 vehicles recalled in 2005.

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