It’s the software, stupid. At a press conference at 3:30 pm Japanese time, Toyota came clean and announced that it will recall 223,068 hybrid vehicles in Japan, including its latest Prius model and three other models–the Sai, the Lexus HS250h and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, says the Nikkei [sub]. They will get a re-flash of the brake software. Worldwide recalls of affected models will follow. This ends – for now – weeks of waffling over the latest in a series of Toyota problems.
The recall will start Wednesday. A total of 199,666 Prius vehicles manufactured between April 20, 2009 and Jan. 27 of this year will receive new ABS software.
Toyota will also recall a total of 10,820 units of its Sai model manufactured between Oct. 2 and Feb. 8; 12,423 units of its Lexus HS250h manufactured between June 10 and Feb. 8; and 159 units of its Prius plug-in hybrid manufactured between Nov. 25 and Feb. 5. Sales of these vehicles will be suspended from late February through early March, the Japanese Transport Ministry said according to a report in the Nikkei [sub]. The software for these models has not been finished yet.
According to a separate report in the Nikkei [sub], Toyota will recall 400,000 vehicles worldwide, President Akio Toyoda said at the press conference. “We will swiftly act to inform our customers in Europe and the U.S. of our plans.”
The Japanese government hopes Toyota will properly handle the recalls to ease concern among customers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Tuesday: ”I would like the company to deal with it properly so that it can alleviate concern among users.’The government will continue to watch developments carefully.”
Meanwhile in the U.S.A., Toyota went on the long overdue public relations offensive. The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed articled by Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda. He promised that Toyota will be more vigilant in the future about responding to safety regulators.
“I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials,” Toyoda wrote in the Washington Post. (Via Reuters, on-line version was not available at the time of this typing.)