U.S. government will investigate Prius brakes
UPDATED at 10:25 a.m.:
The Transportation Department will open an investigation into owner complaints about brakes on the Toyota Prius hybrid, piling onto the mounting problems at the Japanese auto giant.
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that it is opening a formal investigation of the Toyota Prius Hybrid model year 2010 to look into allegations of momentary loss of braking capability while traveling over an uneven road surface, pothole or bump," the department said in its release, posted moments ago.
The release went on to say that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke with Toyota president Akio Toyoda late Wednesday night and "reassured him" that the U.S. takes safety issues seriously. I wonder if LaHood apologized for tanking Toyota stock yesterday and instantly erasing $3 billion in company value after he said, during a Hill hearing, that Toyota owners driving vehicles affected by the recall should stop driving the cars immediately and take them to a dealer. Shortly after, LaHood said he had made a "misstatement," but that didn't help the stock much.
The Japanese government already has ordered Toyota to investigate the Prius braking system and Toyota said it will look at brakes on all of its hybrids.
Of 171 complaints filed by 2010 Prius owners with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [through Wednesday], 111 involved brake problems, the agency's database shows, and at least two led to driver injuries.
The Prius employs an unusual system known as "regenerative braking" that turns braking energy into electricity, which is pumped back into the Prius's battery. The process can feel unusual to a new Prius owner.
Whether the Prius actually has a braking problem or Prius drivers are panicking is something the Transportation Department will try to ascertain.
Shares of Toyota are down about 2 percent so far today, lower than the overall market.
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February 4, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: Prius, Toyota recall update, brakes, hybrid, toyota recall model and years
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