Complaints about allegedly faulty Prius brakes are growing by the minute. This morning’s Nikkei reports that in addition to the 14 complaints received by Japan’s Transport Ministry, dealers in Japan are handling 77. Today, Toyota conceded that the brakes can get confused on icy roads.
As reported yesterday, the NHTSA had received numerous complaints about the brakes of the new Prius hybrid. According a New York Times tally, the NHTS had logged “at least 136 complaints about the brakes on the 2010 Prius. Many are from drivers who say the vehicle surged forward or temporarily lost braking after driving over a pothole or other uneven surface, and many say it is a recurring problem.”
Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki assured Transport Minister Seiji Maehara that a remedy for the brake problem has already been devised. At the same time, Sasaki insisted that Toyota will investigate each complaint.
This Tokyo afternoon, Toyota gave a press conference. Bad news: Toyota is investigating whether any of its hybrids besides the Prius have brake problems. The Sai, which was released in December, and the Lexus HS hybrid use the same electronic braking system as the Prius.
After having received increased complaint in December, Toyota changed the software in January. Also in January, Toyota retooled the braking systems for cars made that month. However, they did not disclose the move. “We were investigating the cause of the problem,” said Hiroyuki Yokoyama, general manager of the Customer Quality Engineering Division, “We did not intend to cover up the issue.”
According to Toyota, the logic of the regen brakes can get confused: “When driving on an icy road, the shift from the electronic brake to the hydraulic brake sometimes takes longer than usual,” Yokoyama conceded.
“At first, we thought the complaints were due to users’ unfamiliarity with the hybrid’s brakes,” Yokoyama explained. “But as it got colder in December, the number of complaints increased. This was when we began to consider a remedy, which we carried out in January.”
But they did not tell previous owners. Braking on icy roads is dicey as it is. You can’t have brakes that haven’t made up their mind whether to brake the old way or the new way.