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Prius problems

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Toyota's safety record hit another massive pothole last week amid reports that
its popular hybrid - Prius - had braking problems.

According to media reports, Toyota's iconic gas-electric vehicle suffers temporary braking failure while travelling over uneven road surfaces, potholes or bumps.

However, local authorised dealers, Toyota Jamaica, say they are yet to receive any complaints.

"We have been in touch with our customers," said Tom Connor, acting managing director of Spanish Town Road-based company, "and, we have not had any negative reports."

According to Connor, the problem occurs when decelerating in the anti-braking system (ABS) mode.

"Based on our information, it happens when braking in the ABS mode," he told Automotives. "It never happens under normal circumstances."

The acting managing director said the braking problem is confined to certain models of 2010 hybrid vehicle.

"The problem is with the third-generation Priuses. These are particularly new vehicles and are a few months old," he said.

Connor, a Scotland-born Jamaican citizen, explained that owners experiencing such a problem when driving could exert greater force to the brake.

"Apply extra pressure on the brake pedal," he said.

The Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, had its genesis in Japan in 1997 and four years later went global. Toyota Jamaica began distributing the vehicle locally in September 2009.

"We've sold two so far ... one in December and the other in January. Jamaica is a new market for hybrid vehicles," he said.

So far, the US' National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Transportation Department's safety agency, has received 124 reports, including four reports of crashes.

Japanese parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation, was still undecided whether a recall is needed.

Last week, Toyota recalled 3.4 million vehicles in the United States, Europe and China as a result of sticking accelerators. Several months prior to that, the company recalled 4.2 million vehicles because the gas pedals of several models would become stuck under the floor mats, resulting in sudden acceleration. That problem was the cause of several crashes, including some fatalities.

Toyota gave the estimate of the costs of the global gas-pedal recall as US$2 billion total representing US$1.1 billion for repairs and US$770 million to US$880 million in lost sales.